Players of Nigeria Professional Football League side Rivers United on Tuesday took to the Rivers State government house in Port Harcourt to protest the non-payment of their sign on fees from the 2014 Football season.
Under the Chibuike Amaechi-led Rivers state government, the state owned football teams Sharks and Dolphins constantly took to the streets in protest of the lack of attention including the failure to pay their salaries and other emoluments.
The constant neglect led to the eventual relegation of Port Harcourt’s treasured team, Sharks in 2015 with Dolphins escaping the dreaded drop on the final day of the season.
With the advent of a new administration in mid-2015, the then new Governor, Nyesom Wike thought to collapse both clubs into one entity which would work in full compliance with statutes of Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
The League Management Company (LMC), organizers of the NPFL had outlawed the sign-on-fees regime with an improved salary structure replacing it. This was yet to be implemented by Sharks and Dolphins.
With all assets and liabilities of both clubs taken over by the new Rivers United, it was promised that unpaid sign on fees and outstanding salaries for two years (2014 and 2015 season’s) would be paid by the state government. However, only one year arrears was paid.
The new salary structure of the LMC has since been implemented for the ‘new’ Rivers United, meaning that issues of sign of fees which had been a menace across football clubs in the country would no longer rear its ugly head.
Former and current members of the team had over the course of the two years during which Rivers United existed continually reminded the administrative staff of the outstanding emoluments but had little or no interest from them.
With a new league season in Nigeria approaching (the next season starts on January 14, 2018), players of the team decided to take the risk of going public with a protest, about two years after the last one.
In 2014, players of the club slept in front of the government house to press home their demands during the protest but while this was not as pronounced as then, the players were able to catch the attention of the world, including the state governor Wike who came out to attend to them, allegedly promising to see to the matter.
“This morning, players of Rivers United FC went to the Rivers State Government House to press home demands for the payment of sign on fees for the 2014/15 football season.
“It should be noted that these monies were owed by the previous administration, before the merger, and during the days of Sharks and Dolphins FC.
“The Governor addressed the players personally and promised to look into their demands,” read a statement from Rivers United’s Press Officer on Tuesday afternoon.
It remains to be seen how and when the players will receive what they worked for.