By Osondu C. Nwokoro, Kenneth C. Eze.


This article explores the need for better and more responsible communication between football clubs and officials of the Nigeria National League (NNL) as an important prerequisite to protecting the image and integrity of the game.

The theme arises from two recent cases involving clubs in the second-tier league, NNL, whose reactions to disciplinary decisions risked bringing the game into disrepute. Last year, Vandrezzer FC and Bendel Insurance FC both published statements that were widely disseminated on social media expressing their displeasure with decisions of the NNL on disputes arising from their league fixtures with Go Round Football Club and Remo Stars respectively.[1]

This article examines these cases, then makes recommendations that the authors believe would help engender more trust, cooperation and mutual respect between NNL stakeholders with a view to protecting the image of the game in Nigeria.

The Case Of Vandrezzer FC.

In a statement published on its website,[2] Vandrezzer FC explained the various events that led to its decision to “exit the NNL”. The statement begins by explaining that the club had been given written approval by the NNL to broadcast its home and away matches. The club noted that it had live-streamed some fixtures without protestations by participating teams, but also complained that there had been some incidents where other teams either damaged the club’s broadcast equipment, attempted to restrict the broadcast, or made monetary demands before fixtures would be broadcast – all of which contradicts NNL’s written approval.[3] The statement specifically mentioned the incidents involving Calabar Rovers[4] and Osun United.[5] The club further lamented the subsequent abrupt reversal of the result of the fixture by the NNL after it had cancelled the same.[6]

The club also alleged that in its fixture against Go Round FC of Rivers State, the General Manager of Go Round FC (the home team) insisted that Vandrezzer FC must make a payment of One Million Naira ($2500) before it could live stream the fixture, and its efforts to elicit the intervention of the NNL failed as its COO advised the club (over a phone call) to negotiate with the home team.[7]It then formally wrote to the NNL about the demand of Go Round FC, and been unable to elicit any official reaction or resolution, Vandrezzer FC refused to play the match. This led the NNL, after a hearing, to award three points and three goals as well as a fine of $2500 against Vandrezzer FC.[8]

Vandrezzer FC also alleged that, on the same match-day, four other NNL teams refused to honour their fixtures citing consistent bad refereeing decisions, and that instead of punishing the teams, the NNL simply rescheduled their fixtures.[9] Thus, Vandrezzer FC felt aggrieved that it was penalized despite the fact that it had travelled to honour the fixture and but for the demand, would have played the match, unlike the other teams that blatantly refused to honour their fixtures.

In the circumstances, Vandrezzer FC concluded in their statement that:

“The decision becomes imperative in view of the fact that the Management and Board of the Nigeria National League as presently constituted has demonstrated enough resolve and communicated same to us in clear terms that our club, with its transformation agenda, is not in any way needed in the NNL.”[10] 

The club further added that:

“It is obvious and crystal clear from the aforementioned that the management of the Nigeria National League are not in any way comfortable with the transformation and advancement being brought to bear in the running of the league and would therefore stop at nothing to frustrate any team or club attempting to change the narrative.”[11]

However, the NNL defended itself stating that the decision of Vandrezzer FC to exit the NNL was too hasty.[12]

The Case Of Bendel Insurance FC.

In the fixture between Remo Stars v Bendel Insurance, crowd violence erupted towards the end of the match. There are different versions of what transpired, as the clubs made series of allegations and counter-allegations.[13] The NNL could not resolve the matter and so referred it to the NFF Disciplinary Committee.[14] In its decision, the Disciplinary Committee found, amongst other things, that the fans of Remo Stars FC besieged the pitch and the match was disrupted due to the encroachment and violent conduct by officials and supporters of Remo Stars FC, which led to the players and officials of Bendel Insurance FC being chased out of the field and resulted in various degrees of injuries to the players and officials.[15] Thus, Remo Stars was handed punishments including a demand that the club writes an undertaking to the NNL that it will ensure the safety of players and officials of visiting teams.[16]

However, the management of Bendel Insurance FC, in a signed statement widely disseminated in national newspapers, rejected some parts of the decision of the Disciplinary Committee’s stating that:

We see the judgment as biased and nothing but an instrument for encouraging further violence in Nigerian football, a call to anarchy, and is therefore unacceptable; the only substance derivable from the judgment is the untouchable status vested on Remo Stars by NNL; without any apology, the judgment is unbelievably irresponsible and capable of promoting violence among football lovers and killing the enthusiasm of football supporters in the country; and considering similar cases (though with lesser offences and injuries) involving Holy Arrows in which the judgment banished Holy Arrows to Enugu; and that of Kano Pillars in which the NPFL team was fined N8. 5million, it is easy to arrive at the conclusion that the judgment by the NNL disciplinary committee on Remo Stars v Bendel Insurance FC is bought by Remo Stars.”[17]

The club also stated the grounds of their appeal[18] and that it would not honour its remaining matches unless the NFF reversed the decision.

Bringing The Game Into Disrepute.

The cases highlight several important issues facing Nigerian league football today, which are beyond the scope of this article:   

  • consistency of policies (particularly on broadcasting and fixture scheduling);
  • adequacy of governance and dispute resolution procedures;
  • consistency of sanctions; and,
  • crowd violence.

However, another important issue, which the authors wish to explore is the conduct of clubs when facing decisions of the NNL given the tendency in these cases to take courses of action (by speaking out in public, vocally criticizing authorities, and threatening to leave the league) that risk bringing the game itself into disrepute. The rules of a particular sport help to protect its reputation, organization and in turn enhances its goodwill and commercial value. These rules are usually supplemented by codes of behavior directed at off-field conduct of stakeholders in the sport.[19]

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)[20] is affiliated to the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the West African Football Union (WAFU). The codes and statutes of these bodies have provisions aimed at discouraging and punishing conduct that bring the game of football into disrepute at various levels of regulation[21] and requires members to adopt same, albeit with slight modifications. The Executive Committee of the NFF is empowered to authorize the formation, registration, operation and management of football leagues in Nigeria.[22] It oversees the administration of the recognized football leagues in Nigeria.[23] Thus, the regulations and rules of the various leagues in Nigeria, including the NNL’s, substantially mirror the provisions of the statutes and codes of these international football governing bodies for the protection of the image of the game and the participating clubs and other relevant stakeholders are obligated to abide by same.

Article 23.1 of the Amended Nigeria National League Rules 2017[24] (League Rules) is a disrepute provision to guide the conduct of stakeholders in the NNL.  It states that,

“Players, Club officials and every person involved in the League shall at all times act in the best interest of the game and comply with the principles of fair-play, sportsmanship, the rules and regulations governing the League and not act (whether through words, conducts or behaviour) in a manner capable of bringing the game into disrepute; failure of which constitutes misconduct and a breach of the League Rules.”

It further outlines what constitutes misconduct as a breach, amongst others, of any other relevant rule, regulation, order, requirement, directive or instruction and “any conduct capable of bringing the game into disrepute.”[25]Therefore, players, clubs, club officials, match officials and other football administrators in the NNL have a duty to ensure that they do not act in a manner capable of bringing the game into disrepute. Acting in such a prohibited manner attracts punishment in the form of caution, censure, fine, suspension, ban or expulsion from the league.[26]

However, football clubs are entitled to express opinions, especially when it relates to their area of operations. In that sense, Vandrezzer FC’s expression of sentiments of partial treatment and victimization by the NNL may be well-founded in fact. The NNL has since defended itself nevertheless.[27] Also, it is not unarguable that Bendel Insurance’s apprehension that the NNL’s decision in its case is inconsistent with its prior precedents may also be justifiable. However, despite the right of these clubs to hold and express varying positions or contentions with the NNL, the authors’ view is that this entitlement is not absolute and must he exercised very responsibly with care taken not to infringe on the interests of other persons; specifically on the promotional and developmental interests of the sport. Thus, Vandrezzer FC and Bendel Insurance FC – indeed all clubs – are bound by a duty to communicate responsibly and to disseminate accurate information to the public, especially in respect of the NNL and its processes as doing otherwise risks damaging the public’s perception and image of the league and its organizers, thus hindering its development by deterring investment and commercial partnerships. The good image of a league leads to its greater promotion and development and attracts commercial partners and sponsors whose funds and goodwill bankroll its activities, prizes, disbursements, and management.

In the case of Vandrezzer FC, the Statement was uploaded on its website by its media officers. The assertions, allegations and insinuations contained in those Statements, even though lacking in evidential justification have grave implications for the development and promotion of football at the level of the NNL as they would lead any “ordinary, reasonable and honest mind” [28] who reads them to form a  negative impression of NNL football and its management as well as the NFF. The statement of such a private-sector owned club, that is pioneering best practices of digital marketing and advertising in club management, suggests that the Board of the NNL is working at cross-purposes with its publicly stated objectives of promoting and developing the League. This has the likelihood of deterring other private investors from establishing and sponsoring clubs or partnering with the NNL as they would be wary of the alleged experience of Vandrezzer FC. The Statement by Bendel Insurance FC also contains grave insinuations and accusations of corruption, bias, irresponsibility and favoritism against the NNL.

These statements were, in the authors’ view, in breach of their duty of responsible communication and conduct under Article 23.1 of the League Rules and brought the game and the NNL into disrepute. Rightly, the Appeals Committee of the NFF, in its decision in the appeal brought by Bendel Insurance FC warned the club “to desist from acts/conducts likely to bring the game of football to disrepute through the use of social and mainstream media to address their grievances, if any.”[29] Sadly, no reason was adduced in the typically summary decision of the Appeals Committee for issuing a warning for such grievous misconduct. It is the authors’ view that even though a warning is in accord with the provision of the League Rules,[30] the extreme language in the Statement as well as the fact that the grave assertions, allegations, and insinuation contained in the communications were wholly unsubstantiated should have motivated the Appeals Committee to impose a greater sanction by way of a significant fine on the club to deter other stakeholders from committing a similar infraction.

Worryingly, it appears that the equally infringing statement of Vandrezzer FC escaped the scrutiny of the NFF and the NNL as the club was not sanctioned for the same.[31] This lapse raises a concern of selective exercise of disciplinary powers by the NFF and NNL and should in the authors’ view be decisively addressed to dispel the impression that any club is untouchable and above the law.

The Need For Procedural Fairness And Impartiality.

Embedded in the contentions and protestations of Vandrezzer FC and Bendel Insurance FC are concerns that need to be addressed to foster cooperation and trust amongst all stakeholders. One of these concerns is the quadripartite role of accuser, prosecutor, judge and enforcer that the sport’s governing body (in this case the NNL) plays in disrepute charges. The likelihood of compromising the requirements of procedural fairness and natural justice creates doubts in the minds of other stakeholders and perceived inconsistency in the decisions of the NNL.

To address this, the NNL should, in the authors’ view, seek to ensure certainty and procedural fairness as well as impartiality. Also, anyone who has the privilege of accessing the decisions of league bodies and football judicial bodies in Nigeria will attest to its summary and concise nature. The fact that these rulings offer no rationale, basis and guiding principles for its decisions lends them to suspicion and allegations of contrivance by corruption and undue influence. To avert allegations of predetermination of hearings, the NNL and other quasi-judicial bodies of the NFF should seek to furnish a detailed and well-reasoned basis for their findings. This is necessary for the growth of the Nigerian body of football precedents and promotes certainty, consistency and trust amongst stakeholders.

Of equal concern is the lack of framework, guidelines or rules for what constitutes disreputable conduct. Disrepute charge, thus, appears to be a default charge that sport’s governing bodies resort to, when there is insufficient evidence to ground specific misconduct, to summarily indict champions of dissent and diversity within their ranks. There is, therefore, a need for the NNL to consider publishing guidelines that outline the basis for assessing evidence of disreputable conduct as advised by case law precedents and legal commentators. This will ensure the integrity of decisions punishing breaches as such decisions will be reasoned, robust, and informed by the considerations of transparency, consistency, and fair hearing. Such decisions will therefore stand a greater chance of withstanding judicial, industrial, and public review or scrutiny. Also, such guidelines should generically offer insights into what conducts are viewed as disreputable. This will provide clarity and certainty on the subject and engender a better understanding and greater compliance by stakeholders.

It is possible that a league can enjoy greater success after its constituent teams’ involvement in major scandals.[32] It is clear that the disrepute provision is a necessity for addressing certain misconducts, protecting the image of football, and the continued development of the NNL and the authors acknowledge that while the clubs may have justifiable grievances against and/or opposition to the relevant decisions of the NNL, resorting to bombastic and unsubstantiated allegations and name-calling in social media undermines the NNL brand and the overall development and promotion of the game. If the NNL were to address these concerns by implementing transparent and clear procedural requirements it would encourage greater stakeholder confidence in the NNL and the Nigerian football industry generally.

This Article was first published in LawinSport.( https://www.lawinsport.com/topics/item/why-nigerian-football-needs-responsible-communication-between-stakeholders-to-flourish#reference


  1. The issues raised in the statements highlight the dispute resolution concerns in the NNL; more specifically they emphasize the lack of consistency in decisions.
  2. ‘Vandrezzer FC pulls out of NNL’, Vanguard NGR, published 18 April 2021, https://www.vanguardngr.com/2021/04/vandrezzer-fc-pulls-out-of-nnl/, (last viewed 14 January 2022)
  3. Ibid.
  4. In this fixture, the home team, Rovers FC reportedly refused to allow Vandrezzer FC’s broadcast team into the match venue (U. J. Esuene stadium) with more than 2 cameras until a directive from Cross River State Government compelled them to do so.
  5. Ibid; the NNL in its decision found, amongst others, that Vandrezzer FC’s team and officials were intimidated and their broadcast equipment damaged and there was breach of closed-door order by the home team and the State FA. Thus, it handed down punishment, including canceling the result of the match and ordered a replay. See, ‘NNL Sanctions Osun United Cancels Results of Osun United, Vandrezzer FC’, Vandezzer FC,https://www.vandrezzerfc.com/news/view/nnl-sanctions-osun-united-cancels-results-of-osun-united-vandrezzer-fc, (last viewed 14 January 2022)- However, in a twist of events, the NNLlater rescinded its decision ordering a replay based on reports of match officials that the match had been concluded before the violence erupted.–see, ‘NNL makes u-turn on Osun vs VFC’,  https://www.vandrezzerfc.com/news/view/nnl-makes-u-turn-on-osun-vs-vfc, (last viewed 14 January 2022) This caused Vandrezzer FC to issue a statement regarding the reversal.
  6.  Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid. Vandrezzer FC contends that the decision had been pre-determined before the hearing which suggests inducement, corruption, collusion and partiality on the part of the NNL.
  9. Ibid.
  10. ‘Vandrezzer FC Bids NNL Farewell’, Vandrezzer FC, https://www.vandrezzerfc.com/news/view/vandrezzer-fc-bids-nnl-farewell, (last viewed 14 January 2022)
  11. Ibid. It is noteworthy that this statement is in sharp contrast with Vandrezzer FC’s statement on NNL’s reversal of its decision against Osun United where despite the nature of the NNL’s reversal of its decision, the club deployed very civil language and also utilized the process of appeal to challenge the NNL’s volte-face instead of resort to allegations as in the present (Go Round FC) case–see Footnote 5
  12. Jacob Ajom, ‘Vandrezzer’s decision too hasty – NNL’, Vanguard, published 17 April 2021.
  13. MU, ‘Remo Stars vs. Bendal Insurance: Eyewitness Report’, Sports 247, published 7 June 2021, https://www.sports247.ng/remo-stars-vs-bendel-insurance-eyewitness-report/, (last viewed 14 January 2021) ; Linda Ikeji, ‘Fans of Remo Stars allegedly attack Bendel Insurance players and match officials for time-wasting’, Linda Ikeji Blog, published 8 June 2021,  https://www.lindaikejisblog.com/2021/6/fans-of-remo-stars-allegedly-attack-bendel-insurance-players-and-match-officials-for-time-wasting-photosvideo.html, (last viewed 14 January 2022)
  14. Ebenezer Bajela, ‘Remo, Insurance clash beyond NNL, says Adesanya’, Punch NG, published 10 June 2021, https://punchng.com/remo-insurance-clash-beyond-nnl-says-adesanya/ https://punchng.com/remo-insurance-clash-beyond-nnl-says-adesanya/, (last viewed 14 January 2022) Furthermore, Article 27.2 of the League Rules provides that hearing maybe referred to the NFF Disciplinary Committee if a sanctioned party so requests. In the instant case, while there is no evidence known to the authors that any of the clubs requested a referral, NNL’s referral of the matter to the Disciplinary Committee maybe justifiable as both clubs officially petitioned against each other.
  15. Dare Eniola, ‘NNL: Remo Stars FC Fine N900,000… Bendel Insurance Unable to Submit Any Medical Bills For Their Injured Players’, Global Times NG, published 20 June 2021, https://globaltimesng.com/2021/06/20/nnl-remo-stars-fc-fine-n900-000bendel-insurance-unable-to-submit-any-medical-bills-for-their-injured-players/, (last viewed 14 June 2022)
  16. Ibid
  17. ‘Bendel Insurance FC Reject Ruling on Remo Stars’, This Day Live, published 20 June 2021, https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2021/06/20/bendel-insurance-fc-reject-ruling-on-remo-stars/, (last viewed 14 January 2022)
  18. Jethro Ibileke/Benin, ‘Attack: Bendel Insurance reject NNL’s decision, allege foul play’, The News Nigeria, published 19 June 2021, https://thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2021/06/19/attack-bendel-insurance-reject-nnls-decision-allege-foul-play/, (last viewed 14 January 2022)
  19. An example of such code is the Football Federation of Australia’s Code of Conduct which in clause 2 lists instances of conduct which are prohibited. They include violence, sexual harassment, abuse of position in order to obtain a benefit and commission or charge of a criminal offence.
  20. Formerly, Nigeria Football Association (NFA)
  21. Article 11 of FIFA DISCIPLINARY CODE [2019 ED.]; the Preamble to the FIFA Code of Ethics 2020 recognizes that FIFA bears a special responsibility to safeguard the integrity and reputation of football worldwide.
  22. Article 78 of the NFF Statutes, 2010 Edition.
  23. They include the First Tier League (the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL); Second Tier League (The Nigeria National League, NNL); the Women League (Nigeria Women Football League, NWFL); and the Amateur League (National League One, NLO).
  24. ‘Download NNL Rules’, Nigeria National League’, https://nnl.com.ng/framework/, (last viewed 14 January 2022)
  25. Article 23.2 of the Amended NNL Rules, 2017. Breach of the laws of the game (no matter how insignificant) as well as the statutes of the NFF, CAF or FIFA are also listed as instances of misconduct. These are very wide and as stated in the main text, could be subject to abuse by sports bodies, and so it is expected that the expectation on the adjudicator to make “rational” and “reasonable” decisions under the requirements on natural justice would act as a check over the arbitrariness of the rules here.
  26. Article 27.1 of the Amended NNL Rules 2017.
  27. See Footnote 12
  28. The Statement by Bendel Insurance berating the Disciplinary Committee of the NFF has far-reaching implications as it casts a negative spotlight on the image of one of the judicial bodies of the foremost football authority in Nigeria. 
  29. MU, ‘Bendel Insurance Warned, Remo Stars Banished To Akure…To Pay N1.3 Million Naira For Breaching NNL Governance Code’, Sports 247published 15 July 2021, https://www.sports247.ng/bendel-insurance-warned-remo-stars-banished-to-akure-to-pay-n1-3million-naira-for-breaching-nnl-governance-code/, (last viewed 14 January 2022)
  30. See footnote 25
  31. No explanation has been offered for this but it appears that, unlike in the Bendel Insurance case where an opportunity was presented by an appeal, such an opportunity is lacking in Vandrezzer FC’s case.
  32. Callam P, ‘How to quantify ‘bringing the game into disrepute?’, The Roarpublished 15 August , 2013, https://www.theroar.com.au/2013/08/16/can-bringing-the-game-into-disrepute-be-quantified/, (last viewed 14 January 2022)


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