7 minutes with China: Who's afraid of Lobi Stars as League champions?

The Nigeria Professional Football League ended prematurely on Match Day 24 and not 38 but that is not the point of this piece because we all know the circumstances that put the League in that situation.

However, there has been an almost unending argument over who the League champions of the 2017/18 season are with one school of thought sticking with Lobi Stars and the other simply content with calling them Nigeria's representatives in the CAF Champions League for next season.

A trip back, down memory lane

It is not a long trip anyway but we all remember that the League went on break for the World Cup and was to resume on July 18, 2018 before the League Management Company, LMC suspended its resumption as a result of the crisis in Nigeria's football.

With a resumption date fixed for September 2, rumours making the rounds pointed to a “no resumption of the league” and a consensus winner agreed by the clubs.

Unreal as it may sound, the clubs met with representatives of the LMC and Football Federation and decided to concede the top spot to Lobi Stars as representatives in the CAF Champions League next year.

Lobi Stars: Champions or nay?

So if the clubs conceded top spot to Lobi Stars and they will now represent the country in the CAF Champions League next season, why aren't they the League champions?

According to a press statement issued by the League Management Company, “An emergency joint consultative meeting of the League Management Company (LMC), the 20 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) participating Clubs and members of the Nigeria Football Federation(NFF) Executive Committee resolved amongst many other far reaching decisions to declare Lobi Stars as the country’s representative in next season’s CAF Champions League.”

So again, the question has to be asked, “Aren't Lobi Stars the League champions by default?”

Why is this too difficult to agree on?

The LMC statement continued, “By this decision, the 2017/18 NPFL season has been deemed concluded at Match Day 24 which was already played before the disruption.”

If the League was concluded at Match Day 24, is the leader at the time of its conclusion not the champion?

According to www.dictionary.com, “champion” is
  1. a person who has defeated all opponents in a competition or series of competitions, so as to hold first place.
Remember, Lobi Stars held first place at the time the League officially ended, though on Match Day 24. Now unless, there would be a continuation of the 2017/18 season, this definition declares Lobi Stars as League champions, but there is more.

  1. anything that takes first place in competition

Same of the same. A competition started and all participants agreed to end it at a particular time. Lobi Stars was first at the time it ended so they are champions.

So, based on what the dictionary tells us, there is no reason not to declare Lobi Stars the League champions, but since we are talking Association Football here, let us go to what the statutes say about who a/ the champion is.

What do football statutes say?

Article 1 of the General Rule Section of the CAF Statutes says

The Confederation of African Football shall organise a yearly competition called
The CAF Champions League, open to champion clubs of the National League of Affiliated Associations. The winner of CAF Champions League must take part in the next edition.

  1. The 12 countries obtaining the best results in the clubs competitions during the previous five years will be allowed to register a second team, namely the runner-up of the national league. According to the conditions defined in the present regulations.

So it is clear for the CAF Statutes that for teams that have one representative in the Competition, it is open to the champion of their league and for teams that have two representatives, there would be a second team apart from the League champions.

Nigeria can only register one team so your guess is as good as mine.
What do the LMC statutes say about who the champion club is?

The League Management Company has on it website certain guidelines and series of information called, Framework and Rules which also explains how a champion is determined in the league.

3.8. The Club which is at the top of the table at the end of the Season shall be the
League Champions.

The organisers of the League clearly state in article 3.8 of their own framework that the club at the top of the table at the end of the season shall be the League Champions.

At the end of the league, as determined by the 20 participating clubs, Lobi Stars was at the top of the table, so who is afraid of naming them the League Champions?

The League Management Company in its statement after the meeting with the twenty clubs was careful not to name Lobi as League champions, rather, as representatives in the CAF Champions League, but from all indications, they would have done nothing wrong if they had named Lobi Stars because they are indeed the League champions.

In 1982, the League ended abruptly and had to be awarded to Rangers after there was a case in court stopping normal play.

Rangers International were declared League winners regardless, and the 1982 title is counted as part of the 7 League titles they have won.

The League Management Company should do what is right according to their own statutes and declare Lobi Stars the League champions and hand them the trophy too.

There is nothing wrong with that.

Lobi Stars are the champions of the Nigerian league, 2017/18, Period! 

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