*Engaging NFF, Sports Ministry for Resolution
*Insist LMC is legally situated both in Football laws/regulations (NFF and FIFA Statutes) and NIgeria corporate laws (CAC Act)
The Board of the League Management Company Ltd (LMC) says its attention has been drawn to a Media Release from the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development (FMYSD) to the effect that the Federal Government has declared the LMC “illegal”, urging stakeholders to remain calm while it engages the Ministry in conjunction with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
In a statement, the league organiser said ” the LMC Ltd wishes to call for calm from all its participating clubs, sponsors and partners and stakeholders’ as it will in conjunction with NFF be engaging the FMYSD to provide clarifications to ensure all parties are on the same page and keep acting within the realm of its authority.
Fundamentally, the protection of the integrity of the NPFL which the LMC Ltd has been toiling over the last decade to build inspite of the challenges is most paramount at all times”.
It said the statement is only being issued for the sake of good order, stability of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) and the Participating Clubs, the LMC current and potential sponsors and indeed the entire Nigerian Football stakeholders to clarify and set matters straight for the records.
The LMC Board also expressed distress at seeing the FYMSD coming up with the public statement/position without first engaging the LMC/NFF to discuss any concerns or information regarding the LMC Ltd so as to hear from the other side and enable it come to a balanced position based on facts and law.
“It is LMC’s belief that had this simple fundamental procedure and legal step of fair hearing been done, there would have absolutely been no need or basis for the FMYSD position and or statement”, the statement argued.
The LMC insisted that “there is absolutely no court order or proceedings declaring the LMC as illegal. Likewise, there is no challenge in any court to the legal status of LMC”.
Tracking the formation and registration of the company, it noted that, “for the avoidance of doubt, LMC Ltd was duly and properly formed in 2013 with all due processes adhered to and in line with both Football laws/regulations and Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Laws (Companies and Allied Matters, Act – CAC Act).
“The participating clubs of the NPFL were part and parcel of this processes in line with the stipulations of the NFF Statutes (article 18 of the NFF Statutes)”. It further averred that “the LMC Ltd Supplementary Regulations (Governance Structure) was agreed with the NPFL Clubs in accordance with the NFF Statutes on 6th September 2013, and duly filed at the CAC with CAC approval appropriately issued on 2nd June 2014
“Subsequently, the NFF Executive Committees at its meeting of 8th October 2014 in Abuja and the NFF Congress (the Supreme Legislative body of the NFF) at its meeting of 23rd November 2014 in Lagos duly approved the LMC Supplementary Regulations/Governing Structure pursuant to the powers vested on the Congress under the NFF Statutes (article 18 and article 78 subsection 2 and 3) as well as FIFA Statutes (articles 17 and 18) to delegate the right to an independent/subordinate body to manage/ organise its competitions (NPFL inclusive) and to make regulations and or approved regulations for the management of the domestic leagues”.
The statement submitted that it is based on the above compliance with football and legal regulations that it remains clear that the LMC Ltd was properly set up with the full engagement of the NFF and the participating NPFL clubs and in full compliance with the extant football Laws (articles 18 and 78 of the NFF Statutes and 17 and 18 of FIFA Statutes with full approval of NPFL Clubs, NFF Executive Committee, NFF Congress and also the corporate laws/regulations of Nigeria (CAC Act) with the full approval of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
It went on to correct the erroneous impression that the LMC Ltd is a private body, stating that, “the LMC LTD is not a private body as has been misrepresented but a not-for-profit company duly formed by the NFF and the participating NPFL clubs in accordance with their powers as enshrined in the extant NFF Statutes.
Buttressing further, it explained that “the NFF hold the golden shares in LMC Ltd with specific responsibilities and veto powers on the operations and organisation of the NPFL, while the other shares are held for and on behalf of the NPFL participating clubs.
All shares in the LMC Ltd are nominal as the entire revenue of the NPFL is for the operations and running of the NPFL and distribution to the participating clubs in line with the distribution formula agreed with the clubs”.
It recalled that prior to formation of the LMC Ltd, the Nigeria elite professional football league was run and operated by the Nigeria Football League Limited (NFL Ltd) formed in 2006 with NFA and participating clubs as shareholders with RC 649651 and dated 4th April 2006.
The NFL Ltd, it noted, operated the league up to 20th January 2012 when the Federal High Court via judgement in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/179/2010 in matter between Dr. Sam Sam Jaja (plantiff) vs Nigeria Football League Ltd, Nigeria Football Association/NFF, Mr. Anthony Rafua, Chief Felix Anyansi and Corporate Affair Commission (collectively as defendants), declared the NFL Ltd as wrongly incorporated since its incorporation documents were signed by just one legal entity and thus illegal and void and further issued an order to mandatorily direct the 5th Defendant (Corporate Affairs Commission) to immediately take steps for winding up of the 1st Defendant (NFL Ltd) for infraction of the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAC Act).
Offering a background to the court proceedings that resulted in the judgement declaring the NFL Ltd illegal and void for registration infractions, the LMC recalled that “this Court matter emanated as a result of the “elections” into NFL Board in 2010 when Dr. Sam Sam Jaja was excluded from participating and he proceeded to seek redress in court.
His claims were that the NFL Ltd MEMAT only provided for appointment of an Independent chairman and two other independent directors not elections and also that the registration/incorporation of the NFL Ltd was not done in compliance with the CAC laws and thus illegal and void”.
It said that the Court ruled in favour of Dr. Jaja and upheld the claims among others and granted his reliefs.
“This court judgement has nothing do with LMC Ltd at all, as it even predates the formation of the LMC Ltd by at least 1 year while the matter started 3 (three) years earlier”.
It contented that throughout the formation of the LMC Ltd the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) was never directly involved nor its consent required as it is a purely football internal matter under the absolute jurisdiction of the NFF guided by the NFF Statutes, though the FMYSD were briefed on all the processes to ensure all parties are on the same page.
“The LMC Ltd did not receive any funding either from NFF or FGN on its formation in 2013 nor has it received any funding from Federal Government at any point. The LMC is purely funded by the revenues it raised through the commercialization of the events and activities it organises, i.e. the NPFL events and matches”. Supporting this position, the statement noted that “at the formation in 2013, the LMC and NPFL was funded through the personal efforts/sacrifices of the members of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) with the current Chairman of the LMC Shehu DIkko, the principal contributor providing over N120,000,000.00 (over $800,000 USD then) to fund the initial activities of the LMC including paying match officials’ expenses from NPFL 2013 Matchday 1 to Matchday 24, staff salaries, committee expenses etc, before LMC secured the first sponsorship around July 2013”.
The LMC insisted that the Supreme Court Judgement of 28th January 2022 in SC 841/2016 in a matter between Emmanuel Oboh, Emmanuel Oboh & Associates (Appellants) AND Nigeria Football League Ltd, League Management Company Ltd, First Bank of Nigeria Plc (Respondents) has nothing to do with the legal status of LMC Ltd.
“This was simply about a judgement debt obtained in 2012 by Emmanuel Oboh/Emanuel Oboh & Associates against the NFL Ltd (originating from legal services he claimed to have rendered NFL Ltd between 2008-2010) which he sought to enforce against the LMC Ltd in 2013, after its formation. LMC won the court matter at the High Court (21st January 2014) and at the Court of Appeal (24th June 2016)”
But the Supreme Court in its wisdom set aside this lower court judgements based on some technicalities on 28th January 2022 and made the Garnishee order absolute simply implying First Bank Plc is liable to take any available money in LMC Ltd accounts with it to settle the Judgement debt NFL Ltd owed Emmanuel Oboh before LMC Ltd was formed.
“Indeed, Mr. Emmanuel Oboh has since sent a letter of demand dated 11th February 2022 to First Bank Plc through its Solicitors, P.O. Jomoh –Lasisi & Associates forwarding the Supreme Court Judgement of 28th January 2022 and demanding for First Bank Plc to comply by raising a bank draft in its name for the settlement of the Judgement debt he has against the NFL Ltd”.
It is the position of the LMC Board that the judgement of the Supreme Court has further affirmed the legality of LMC as the only body recognised to operate and run the NPFL by ruling for LMC to be responsible for the judgement debt of the NFL Ltd.
It is also the contention of the Board that the LMC Ltd which has successfully operated and ran the NPFL from 2013 to date, with achievements that are very evident and unprecedented across all yardsticks in football league management in Nigeria.
“The records are easily available for all genuine followers of the growth of the NPFL to access and even with the recent challenges occasioned by the difficult economic conditions of the country and the unpatriotic actions of some toxic elements within the football system, the LMC has held firm putting its best efforts to bring the NPFL to and surpass the heights it achieved in 2016/2017 under the LMC.
There has not been any breach of the LMC Ltd licence obligations to the NFF to warrant any consideration of the withdrawal of the LMC Licence as suggested by the FMYSD.
The LMC has been fully compliant with the terms of the licence agreement and the licence can only be amended and or withdrawn (terminated) in accordance to the terms of the licence agreement”.
It went on to posit that “a duly registered company under the CAC Act can only be declared illegal and or ordered to be dissolved (wound up) by a competent court of law. Likewise, for any voluntary winding up of any company the process outlined in the law and company’s MEMAT has to be adhered to.
There is no such court order or proceedings against the LMC LTD. Furthermore the LMC went through all the process of approvals as provided in the NFF Statutes with the congress giving the final approval thus its only FIFA and or the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) that may interpret this process and declare this process not correct and there has never been such.”
The LMC Ltd structures was actually endorsed by FIFA which had reasons to invite the LMC to discuss the process with other jurisdictions. The Board in the statement noted that even when the defunct NFL Ltd was declared illegal by the Federal High Court and CAC directed to wind it up in 2012, constructive engagements and consultation took place between NFF and Clubs with FMYSD duly briefed to find a road map going forward.
“A painstaking process was undertaken to set up the LMC Ltd in strict compliance with the extant football laws (approval of the NFF Congress in line with NFF Statutes) and Nigeria’s corporate laws/ regulations (CAC Act) in order to avoid the problems of the past and guarantee the stability and sustainability of the league administration in Nigeria.
At present there are no issues with the LMC Ltd whatsoever that warrants reinventing the wheel”.
It is the position of the Board that “this enshrined process has to be respected by all stakeholders to avoid disrupting the potentials and marketability of the NPFL.
There is no gain saying the fact that no sponsor or investor would want to associate with a league that can easily be shoved aside by fiat at any time, at the pleasure of a superior authority.
If the developed leagues we all cherish are set up on this sort of insecure framework, they certainly would not have been able to attain the levels they are today as it takes decades, dedication and patience to develop any league”.
It also lamented that the LMC Ltd at present has several tied-up long term sponsorship contracts/partnerships, with several more on the table and contracts agreed awaiting signature.
The current avoidable situation, it also noted, has raised a very big red flag for these partners and potential investors.
Citing examples from other jurisdictions, it said, “the English Premier League (EPL) is run and operated by a company called FA Premier League Ltd which is owned by the English FA and the EPL Clubs (in a similar fashion, the LMC Ltd is formed and owned by the NFF and NPFL clubs);
The Laliga of Spain is run and operated by a company called Liga Nacional de Fuball Professional (LFP) in collaboration with the Royal Spanish Football Federation comprising the participating clubs and formed as private law sports association pursuant to the Sports Act in Spain; The Bundesliga in Germany is run and operated by a company called DFL (Deutsche Futball Liga) Gmbh Ltd owned by the participating clubs and German FA.
The LMC Ltd is no different from these companies running and operating global best leagues for several decades and the LMC is a foundation member of the World Leagues Forum (WLF) since 2015 to date”.
The Board further argued that “what the LMC deserves from FGN is protection, support and provision of enabling environment to thrive as seen in all successful jurisdictions and when and where any changes become desirable in this structure, it has to be done within the context of the LMC Ltd’s approved governance and regulatory documents”.
The Board believed that from the facts available, “it is very evident that the FMYSD took its position based on misrepresented and muddled up information presented to it by some parties that are clearly not grounded on the issues and or with ulterior motives.
Unfortunately, the FMYSD did not see it desirable to engage the LMC/NFF to discuss whatever issues, concerns and information it may have so as to validate or disprove the information presented to it before reaching a conclusion” In closing, the Board reiterated that it will in the days ahead engage in conjunction with the NFF, the Sports Ministry with a view to providing the right perspective to the founding of the LMC Ltd and its operations is a step bring all parties to the same page.
The LMC acknowledged the passion and concerns the Honourable Minister of Sports have exhibited over time in trying to push for the development of not only the NPFL but football in Nigeria and believes that with proper engagements the right synergy will be achieved to drive this process forward.