Attempts to reposition the domestic league in the country suffered a major setback Wednesday as referees assigned for the rescheduled clash of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) between Bendel Insurance and visiting Enugu Rangers refused to show up for the game.
Signs that the match may not take began at the pre-match formalities when the referees refused to turn up for the ceremony.
Both teams were at the University of Benin Sports Ground for the match but their were no arbiters on sight to record the proceedings that would have either allowed Insurance move out of relegation zone if they had won or consolidate Rangers position as leaders of the Group A of the NPFL.
The referees, it was further learnt, claimed that their lives were not safe due to some threats allegedly made by the Acting Governor of Edo State, Phillip Shaibu who incidentally plays for the Benin Arsenal.
While Insurance and Edo State FA officials accused the referees of bad faith, that there was no iota of truth in the allegations of lack of security, the umbrella body of the referees, NRA, headed by Tade Azeez insisted that it communicated to both the League Management Company and the Edo FA of its impending action not to officiate home matches of Insurance any more.
NRA is insisting that the acting governor withdraws the alleged threat and tender unreserved apology before they can rescind their decision on Insurance home matches for the rest of the season.
But Frank Ilaboya, chairman of Edo FA, insisted his secretariat never received any correspondence from the NRA on Insurance.
“Who did they give the letter to? We have no letter from NRA in our secretariat. This is unbelievable to be happening in our topflight league. This season, there has been no record of any case of violence in Insurance home matches, so It remains a mystery to me what the NRA is claiming,” stressed the Edo FA boss who is also the chairman of Owan West Local Government Area of the state.
There was no official communication on the matter by the LMC. An unofficial source in the league secretariat said that NRA did not inform the league organisers that they were going to boycott Insurance home matches.
“ We don’t have any information from NRA that referees were going to boycott Insurance matches. Anyway, the rules are there for situations like these. I expect the match to be rescheduled when the matter of insecurity is finally sorted out,” revealed the top official in the LMC secretariat in Abuja.