One of the major reasons attendance at domestic league match venues have been very poor is recurring issue of crowd violence.
Year after year, to ensure their teams secured maximum points, supporters of home teams time after time intimidate and descend heavily on players and officials of their opponents. Some teams remained invincible at their fortress for many years as their opponents were constantly denied points even when they played better football. To avoid being beaten by vociferous crowd, referees award home teams undeserved calls and penalties in regulation time to ensure they edge their opponents.
There is virtually any week that referees, assistant referees, players and officials of away teams are not descended on by home team supporters due to the win-at-all-cost syndrome. In some instances, cameras, mobile phones and other valuables of journalists were unceasingly smashed during crowd violence at match venues.
With no television broadcast and strong evidence, erring teams on several occasions received no punishment from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). Very few of the teams received NFF sanction and even when they do, the penalties hardly commensurate with the offence or damage done to the league, match officials and opposing teams.
The wave of crowd violence has however reduced lately with teams securing results on the road after the take over of administration by the League Management Company (LMC). And with SuperSport showing our league matches live to viewers and presence of more assessors to match venues, many teams that looked unbeatable at home for several years now consistently suffer defeats in front of their crowd. Away teams these days approach matches with confidence and freedom unlike in the past when they concede points to home teams even before embarking on the trip.
Just as we thought the ghost of crowd violence in our league has finally been banished, another vicious behaviour was recorded in the Nigeria National League (NNL) after Crown FC of Ogbomosho was held to a 1-1 draw at home to Abia Commets.
According to reports, supporters of Crown descended on match officials with security personnel watching helplessly.
The uniform of the centre referee was also torn and the stop watches of the three officials destroyed in the Week 29 fixture of the Southern Conference played at the Soun Township Stadium, Ogbomosho.
However the NNL has been able to live above board once again by meting out heavy punishments to the erring team and officials.
The club has subsequently been banished from its traditional home ground to Abeokuta as a result of the crowd violence and frequent assaults on match officials in recent time.
Crown FC’s two home games against Papilo FC of Owerri and My People FC of Lagos will now be played in the Ogun State capital.
NNL also rules that the Soun Township Stadium will not host any NNL game for the next two years just as the club will pay about N4million in line with article 26 of the rules governing the League.
Furthermore, the Team Manager of Crown FC, Adetunde Adewunmi and their Physio, Alabi Jonathan were also suspended indefinitely from all NNL activities.
The punishment meted out to Crown is indeed commendable as it will at least serve as deterrent to others that may want to bring the league to disrepute.
To totally nip the menace of crowd violence in the bud, the NFF, LMC, NNL and other stakeholders must be firm in decision making against erring teams and officials.
No team(s) should be favoured over others unlike in the past when some clubs, especially those from the South, received stiffer penalties when compared to their compatriots from the North, who committed similar crowd violence offence.