The news of a $31,000 fine placed on the Nigeria Football Federation by FIFA over pitch invasion by fans after the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Cameroon in Uyo is one that should bring out our thinking caps.
I was at the game in Uyo and I observed several lapses by the organisers that can be corrected going forward.
Field invasion, the reason FIFA has fined the NFF $31k. Have we learned lessons yet? pic.twitter.com/2EUwyi40sM
— Lolade Adewuyi (@Jololade) October 3, 2017
- Ensure that fans purchase tickets with their identity documents. This means that the NFF must invest in selling tickets online where fans would have to put down their names in order to be allocated tickets. Once this is done and the identity of ticket holders is known, they can be found when they become unruly.
- Begin education for fans. Many fans of football in Nigeria have picked up this erroneous idea that it is fair game to run into the pitch after the final whistle. This is wrong. Sports federations and organisers need to begin a conscious education of football fans to teach them that certain places are off limits to fans during and after a football game, this includes the pitch at all times.
3. The work of security does not end until every fan is out of the stadium. What I observed in Uyo was that once the referee brought the game to an end, security officials abandoned their duty posts. They turned their backs on the crowds and the unruly ones became emboldened as they jumped into the pitch and ran after the players for selfies. This is not done, security must always be on the alert until every fan is out of the stadium.
4. Start to arrest and prosecute unruly fans. There needs to be a deterrence for unruly behaviour and the best way to do this is to arrest ringleaders and ensure they are prosecuted. This will create a knowledge that there is rule of law in the sports arena because as things stand, no one is punished for these behaviours so we are reinforcing it by not taking action.
5. Continue to watch things deteriorate. Why is this a part of the action plan? Yes, if we don’t do anything about it, it is part of the things we are doing to ensure Nigerian football will continue to fall into the abyss. For a long time, we have chosen to play the ostrich thinking that it will go away. Well, the bad news is that it will not go away and we have a monster on our hands. If we continue to watch, it will fester. That is one way of looking at it.
So who will bell the cat? Your guess is as good as mine.
Lolade Adewuyi is Chief Strategist at CampsBay Media, a sports communication company creating solutions for African sports and events. Contact him via lolade.adewuyi [at] campsbaymedia.com.ng