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COVID-19: Sports Minister engages NFF on impact on Nigerian Football, demands protection of players, domestic league

*Season to end in 6-8 weeks

The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare on Thursday, April 16, 2020 engaged the leadership of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), via video conference, to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on football in Nigeria and to firm up strategies to mitigate the effect of the disruptions and protect the domestic football industry.

The Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Gabriel Aduda was also part of the meeting, while the NFF team was represented by the President, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick, 1st Vice President Seyi Akinwunmi, 2nd Vice President/LMC Chairman Shehu Dikko, Chairman of the NWFL Aisha Falode and NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi.

The Minister informed the NFF team that in view of the Coronavirus pandemic that has practically paralysed the sports industry, it is imperative to assess its impact on the domestic sports industry including football and consider strategies for charting a new course for football in the post-COVID-19 era.

He reiterated the need for NFF to keep the stakeholders, including the Government and private sector, duly informed on the steps being taken so they can consider interventions to protect the industry.

The meeting discussed several issues around: 

. General impact of the disruption caused the domestic football industry by the Covid-19 pandemic

. Plans to conclude the current football season across all levels

. Time to start the new football season

. New formats to adopt when re-opening the leagues especially the NPFL and possible options to crown the champions

. Funding for the domestic league

. Plans by the NFF to win back the confidence of partners/sponsors to Nigeria football in view of the dark clouds that have truncated the efforts to get more private sector involvement into the game

. NFF’s international commitments and plans post COVID-19

. Possible options to source and/or create support/intervention for the domestic football industry due to the the current circumstances and post COVID-19.

Further to the meeting with the Minister, the Nigeria Football Federation resolved as follows:

1. The current football season will be concluded within 6-8 weeks of the re-opening of the country and a clear go-ahead by the relevant authorities is obtained to commence football activities.

2.The format to be adopted upon the resumption of football activities regarding the completion of the various Leagues and Cup competition will be determined by the time available, health and security guidelines, as well as decisions by global football authorities on football calendar and international competitions (CAF and FIFA).

3. NFF will constantly review the football calendar as the issues develop and periodically keep stakeholders informed on proposals and plans. The Honourable Minister is working on many channels including but not limited to the setting-up of an Athletes Protection Fund (driven by the private sector) and sourcing for intervention/support funding that could be utilised to support athletes and sports, including the football industry affected by this pandemic.

4. The NFF recognises the need to win back the confidence of partners/sponsors to football and intends to arrange private visits and special programs, and will continue to solicit the support of the Honourable Minister in this regard.

5. The NFF has mandated the Leagues to work to ensure players, coaches and other employees’ salaries are protected and should liaise with club owners to ensure players are paid accordingly.

6. That the domestic league must be protected to ensure its commercial viability is sustained and the competition integrity upheld both in the current circumstances and post COVID-19 pandemic.

7. The NFF would further submit a detailed brief to the Sports and Youth Development Ministry on the issues and the likely support needed to ensure the protection of the football industry as envisaged.

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