*Heartland’s Ebele Obi gets six-match ban for assaulting referee
The League Management Company (LMC) yesterday banned owner of FC Ifeanyiubah, Dr Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, from 10 matches of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
Yesterday’s decision to suspend the oil magnate from venues of the Premier League was arrived at after reviewing an independent video on a micro-blogging social media, Twitter, showing Ubah and his security personnel assaulting Heartland FC goalkeeper, Ebele Obi.
LMC, which oversees Nigeria’s top-flight, found Ubah guilty of encroaching on the field of play during his club’s match against Heartland on March 23.
The league body, also announced that four of the 10-match suspension to Ubah are “suspended for a probationary period till the end of the season.”
Ubah was also fined N2.5 million to serve as a deterrent, and is also expected to write “a letter of apology and an undertaking to be a good ambassador of the Nigerian league.”
However, Ubah has been given until 5pm on Saturday to appeal LMC’s ruling.
Also, the league company has banned “self-procured security services” from match venues except those sanctioned by it.
Earlier on Wednesday evening, the LMC had descended heavily on Ebele Obi, handing out a six-match ban to him for assaulting the referee in the clash with FC Ifeanyi Ubah.
Ebele, the brother of Super Eagles captain pushed the referee after he was issued a red card after the game for dissent as he milled around the assaulted official.
“Goalkeeper Obi of Heartland was separately charged for breach of Rule C11 in that he assaulted the referee by pushing him down and was banned from all NPFL activities and matches for six matches,” part of LMC’s statement revealed on Wednesday.
With this, Obi will miss his side’s matches against Nasarawa United, Rivers United, 3SC, Sunshine Stars, Ikorodu United and El-Kanemi Warriors.
Meanwhile, Heartland FC officials have accepted the sanction to pay N750, 000 for their failure to control their players who harassed the match referee and pushed him down. They apologised for the lapse and appealed for leniency citing the fact that their goalkeeper was a first offender.
In the letter signed by the General Manager, Oscar Keke, addressed to the LMC yesterday, the Owerri club pleaded for a reduction of the fine adding that “Heartland is not known for crowd trouble even in the face of negative results. The incident under reference must be viewed as an aberration in the light of which we are appealing for a substantial reduction in the fine”.
Keke also noted that, “Ebele Obi’s conduct is certainly not reflective of his usual behaviour. We are appealing for clemency on his behalf. Moreover, the gravity and level of punishment coming on the heels of the brutality he suffered in the hands of the proprietor of FC IfeanyiUbah and his security aides will amount to double jeopardy for the young man.”
Also arising from the FC IfeanyiUbah versus Heartland match, the LMC has also written to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) recommending that the Match Commissioner, Sunday Jibrin Audu from Federal Capital Territory and the Centre Referee, Ibrahim Ajao, be withdrawn from further officiating in NPFL matches.
Ajao was cited for failure to report the multiple assault incidences recorded during and after the match. He also was cited for failure to submit his match report within the statutory 24 hours as the said report was only submitted on March 31st, while the match held on March 23.
Similarly, the Match Commissioner, Audu was also charged for failure to adequately reflect in his report the cases of multiple assaults on Heartland goalkeeper and his team mates.