Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nigeria's Shame: Match-fixing and the League.....

Recently, news spread world wide about absurd scores in two league games in Nigeria. One ended 79-0 and the other 67-0. What is stunning is that in each game, the score was in single digits at halftime. In the second half, the rate of goal scoring was a goal in less than a minute. Now, think of this: goals may have been scored in less time than it took the team to retrieve the ball from the net and restart., and was there ever a passing miscue?

Clearly, match fixing in Nigeria has reached a new high. I use the words new high because match fixing in Nigeria has been ongoing for years with the football authorities vacating their  authority and acting the Ostritch. This time, the world is watching and the clock is ticking, tick tock tick tock. Will the authorities act?

If you need a reminder, here are just a few of infamous match fixing issues or cases to which the authorities pushed under the carpet.

1. March 31, 2006: Fanny Amun, NFA (NFF) Secretary General, tells the press: "We know match officials are offered money or anything to influence matches and they can accept it." Thus, the authorities instead of monitoring such malfeasance would rather urge the referees to fully participate in it.
2. August 12, 2006: Calabar Rovers lose 0-13 to Akwa United to help United gain promotion to the Premier League. United needed a 12-0 win to overtake Bussdor of Owerri and it seemed impossible but not in the Nigerian league as we have seen with the 79-0 score!
3. May, 2008: Kano Pillars coach Kadiri Ikhana complained "It was clear for all to see that we were robbed in Bayelsa when we lost 2-0 on Sunday. This is what Nigerian football is all about. We all cheat with referees and we will beat JUTH to win the league next week but how much longer do we continue with this madness?" NFA set up a panel to investigate Ikhana's claims of matchfixing but nothing was done after the investigation. Swept under the carpet!
4. September 1, 2011: Lobi Stars' Dominic Iorfa petitions NPL on Sunshine Stars and Dolphins bribing match officials before Lobi Stars hosted Sunshine Stars. NPL investigates this and sanctions several individuals but later vacates the excisions and instead claim that the NIgerian Police has taken over investigation. Nothing has been heard since!
5. Last Note: For years now, teams loath television coverage of their home games because it prevents bribed referees from throwing caution to the wind in ensuring that the home team wins. In many cases, home fans will seize television cameras or intimidate the broadcasting crew to prevent televising of games.

The reality is that match fixing in Nigeria is an epidemic.  Take a look at the following statistics.

Comparing Leagues on Results
___________________Total Games-----Games Sampled----Home Wins--Away Wins---Draws
NPL                                    380                       184*                    77%            7%             16%
Nigeria League 1979           132                       129                      42%          23%            35%
PSL                                     240                       233                      40%         25%            35%
GPL                                    240                        238                      49%        22%            19%
*Function of League completion just over halfway point

Comparing Leagues on Penalties Awarded
___________________1st Q----2nd Q-----3rd Q-----4th Q-----Home Award-------Away Award
NPL                                10%     17%         43%        30%             100%                     0%
Nigeria League 1979         8%     12%        24%         56%              44%                    56%

What we have done here is to compare results in the Nigerian Premier League to results in the Nigerian league in 1979 when there was still sanity in the league. We also compare results to results in two other African leagues -- the Premier Soccer League (PSL) in South Africa 2012/13 season and from Glo Premier League (GPL) in Ghana this season 2012/13. The data shows similar trajectory for the 1979 Nigerian league, PSL, and the GPL. In essence, the results fall under the expected statistical normality. The only abnormal result is the 2013 Nigerian Premier League where the result is clearly an outlier. For instance, while the other three leagues show similarities in percentage of away wins - 20 to 30%, the NPL is stunningly at only 7% away wins meaning that home teams are guaranteed wins that has to be explained beyond simply the ability of the teams. Home wins in the NPL are astonishingly at almost 80%, far higher than in the comparing leagues!

We then compare the NPL to the 1979 Nigerian league on the distribution of penalty kick awards. Note that we did not find a penalty awarded to an away team in the current NPL season. Yet, in 1979, such awards were almost evenly distributed between home and away teams. We then divided games into four quarters, two in each half and evaluated when penalty kicks were awarded and to whom (i.e away or home teams). Here we stumble into a surprise. I had expected most of the awards in the NPL to occur in the last quarter but our stats do not show this. Instead, most of the awards are in the third quarter. What may be happening here? Note that since the awards go only (at least in the data that we have) to the home team, the distribution in terms of quarters matter very little but a tendency to focus on the third quarter may be that referees do not want to wait till late to ensure that the home team is well on the way to winning by converting a penalty award.

**Please note that the data from which these statistics are based are not 100%. A few results may be missing but the data is well over 95% of expected data.

**To learn more about Nigerian soccer statistics checkout CHUKASTATS at books.

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