Statement by the PLB Chairman Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai ESQ

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Salutation

We are very elated to be here today. You will all agree with me that it has been a long walk to this day. Sometimes difficult, other times mired in controversy and most it has been social evening, joy and passion from the game we love. My colleagues on the board have asked me to give a status report at this event. Bear with me to take you through a near summation of our status report.

Premier League Board

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the Premier League Board was constituted in November 2018. I was informed that I was being considered for the position of Chairman amidst disagreement, which has become a main characteristic of football over the last half a decade. Eventually, the appointments were confirmed. The following members were appointed to the board with me

  1. Pa Sama
  2. James Fofanah
  3. Mohamed Samura
  4. Capt Deen
  5. Palmer Wright (Reverend)
  6. Alhaji Komba

After our first meeting, we realized that the PLB was a male’s club, I suggested that we incorporate other people to ensure all-inclusive board and to smash the glass ceiling on male domination. Our consideration was to consider the veterans, women, and media. We therefore co-opted the following members:

  1. Madam Agnes Abu
  2. Madam Rugiatu Sesay
  3. Madam Musu Pele (veterans)
  4. Madam Joyce who was nominated by the Heroes.

When we took over, there was no hope or funds for the commencement of the league. We approached corporate institutions to sponsor the league. We got the greatest rejections. In some cases, we went as far as final negotiation and they started twisting and turning us. Throughout December 2018, we fundraised but hit the brick wall.

The Board members worked around the clock to ensure this league is a milestone.  All of these members were travelling around the country coordinating and organizing at short notices and sometimes leaving their families behind.

In return, for those who are saying the Board members were paid, the Board only got sitting fees of Le 500 000 per sitting. Throughout the tenure of 7 months, the board met and was paid for only 12 sittings. Except for me, who never took a sitting fee.

I want to thank the PLB members very much for putting in the long hours. for putting up with the disdain, accusations and sometimes unfair treatment. Today people are machinating terrible things about us to score cheap political points. What is clear however is that you have served and what has been achieved is monumental. Let’s wait and see if another Board will surpass the goal set.

We are not saying the board was not faced with challenges… in fact, organising football is synonymous to challenges. What we did is to bravely face them and overcome them.

Funding

After months of begging for funding and writing to all organizations, it was Rokel Commercial Bank that first agreed to fund the PLB. After receiving our letter and without even meeting with us, they agreed to a Le 15, 000, 000 Leones support. With no strings attached. The sum could appear small but was a treasury. Thank you, Rokel Commercial Bank.

Then came Sierra Leone Brewery with a Le 50, 000, 000 sponsorship and thanks to Mrs. Aminata Kasim Karew for pushing this through and thank you Sierra Leone brewery.

Finally, the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank further supported the Board with Le 50 million Leones with no strings attached also. Thank you Managing Director Turay for that.

This sum was never enough and could not have even started a league. We turned to the last hope: The Government of Sierra Leone. I met President Bio and explained the circumstances and he asked me how much we needed. Prepared with the budget, I submitted a Le 3.5 billion budget to the President. The president said, “go they will call you.” On my way to Lungi, I got a call from Chief Minister that the President has agreed to support the league with Le. 2 billion.

We were over the moon and the news spread like ambush fire in the Harmattan. Everyone wanted to take credit for the funds but truth be told it was the president who only saw the wisdom in funding the league. Many in government had told us they were not funding the league on grounds of corruption in football.

This is something that I want to address at this stage. A lot of people have accused football administrators of corruption. These accusations came only from rumours. This is the most unfair accusations I have heard in my lifetime. Owners of football clubs make the biggest sacrifices in this country. For the passion they have in football, they put money in clubs and youth development and seldom get anything in return. Every year a club spends 200 and more millions Leones on their team. Coming from the earnings of their owners or managers with no external sponsorship. Now, how would these people be putting their money into football and at the same time stealing their own money? It is good for some due diligence to be done before jumping to conclusions. For 8 years, club owners sacrifice above 120 million in their clubs every year only to get 5 million as subsidy in return. That 115 million comes from the pocket of private citizens. Yet we accused these people of corruption because they ask for constitutional rule in football. Let us not mistake disagreement for corruption and the quest to entrench legality for graft.

Mr. President, the Le. 2 billion that was initially given to the PLB was a lot of money but what we had plans for were much more than the two billion and we were still short of Le 1.5 billion. At the opening statement, we appealed to the president to provide us the rest of the money. With over 40 000 people in attendance, a record crowd for a domestic league, it was emphatically convincing that the money was worth the investment.

Mr. President, thank you for seeing through what many did not see.

Subsidies

The PLB from the onset set itself to empower the clubs financially and institutionally. We initially planned to provide Le 80 million subsidies to each club. With Government meeting all the budget requested, we paid each 13 participating clubs Le 100 million. Le 50 million for the first leg and Le 50 million after the break.

It is important to note that these funds were not just given to clubs, they had to meet fiscal reforms. Each tranche was transferred into an institutional bank account of the Clubs, with three signatories in a recognize bank account. And each club submitted financial report at the end of the first tranche before the second funds were released.

Even as we speak, each will have to submit returns before prize money would be paid.

Reforms

The PLB instituted major reforms with Premier League clubs. However, it was not through any form of imposition and the display of power.

The PLB sat with the clubs and agreed that the Bamoe Declaration should be implemented. The clubs agreed that it was time to reform and create better institutions. It was agreed that all clubs should: become legal entities and all clubs are now corporate bodies, should have an identifiable executive, a bank account with three signatories in a recognised commercial bank, an office space, a license A coach and a B team. All the clubs met these requirements and these requirements are what is entailed in the Bamoe declaration. These are the same requirements for club licenses with more strands.

Even though I hear clubs are required to do the same now by our parent institutions and they are told what they did with Saffa Abdulai was nothing, these reforms were needed and have created stability.

I think we need to learn to appreciate what others have done before us and build on it. It is a general malaise that we need to cure ourselves from. There is nothing wrong with building on the many reforms we undertook. It won’t kill anyone… it will only bruise the ego. And ego is a bad thing.

Secretariat

As part of the Reforms, the PLB decided that it was time to upgrade the secretariat. As we speak, letters have to be handwritten, typed outside of secretariat, signed and dispatched. This is not just a strenuous process, but very time-consuming.

The PLB bought two computers, a printer, UPS, and antivirus software. We wanted to change the face of the secretariat and replace the furniture. However, we were prevented from doing so much because of the forces of stagnation. The equipment are still in cartoons in the office of the General Secretary unutilised.

We also provided financial support to the secretariat. In six months, Le 30, 000, 000 Leones was disbursed to the Secretary of the PLB, P.D. Green, for office upkeep.

The secretariat also raised funds from clubs licenses and life card for players. Each club paid Le 700, 000 for life cards in the first leg and 1, 300, 000 in the second league. These funds are left in the custody of the PLB secretary, PD Green.

Media engagement

Mr. President, the PLB engaged every sector of the media. That is the print, electronics and social media to not only inform the public but to generate the needed attention and discussions around the league.

A media committee was set up made up of six members and permit me to call the members to this forum and to be recognized. Alhaji Komba, Martin Wusha, Morlai Kargbo, Francess Barnard, Abu Mansaray, John Ngebah and….

These journalists mastered their trade and engaged all sports journalists to cover the events.

The media committee was allocated an 80 million budget to carry out its task. These funds were used to provide subsidies for sports journalists from various media institutions and carry out its activities.

The media committee started with a comprehensive one-day training for sports reporters on professional sports reporting and ethics to ensure that standards are upheld.

The Media Committee then created a Facebook page they kept the people informed on fixtures, results and other news on the game.

As a board, we are extremely grateful for the role these young sport-loving journalists played and the media landscape who reported the good, the bad and the ugly.

Support to Regions

With the start of the league, the regional FAs wanted to start their own leagues. They were never fortunate to raise the amount of money the PLB raised. As a result, the PLB decided that the funds we received from other sources should be committed to the regions.

The PLB gave le 25 million each to the western area, north, south and east to aid organizing the first division league in these regions.

The western and southern regions played a full-fledge league, northern regions received the funds but are yet to organize their league, and eastern region refused to take the funds for reasons best known to them. It was later reassigned to other use.

Employment

The issue of employment was a major achievement of this league. Over 520 young people employed at the Premier League level by 13 football clubs. This number doubled across the regional FA who played their first division leagues with more teams. About 88 Referees were engaged with allowances paid to them every week, the media and its reporters got subsidised, board members were paid sitting fees, about 50 people were engaged as match commissioners throughout the league, about 28 people as match coordinators, two referees coordinators and two accountants were paid monthly remuneration and consultancies to documentary makers.

The market women at the stadium have never seen a weekly return in sales like the last six months. The documentary speaks to that.

Ticket sellers became daily wagers and security manning gates got engaged

Mr. President, you will agree with me that while people think 3.5 million is a lot of money, just these statistics mean the outcome superseded the input.

Gate taking and SLFA Support

The Premier League collected Le 3,445,197,000 amounts from gate taking of all games across the country. The highest being the match between EE Lions and FC Kallon. 80% of these funds went to the clubs and %20 to the Board. Even this was affected because the attendance dropped by 80% during the months of Ramadan.

Off the 20%, 10% was given to SLFA secretariat to support them meet running costs. A time when Sierra Leone was under FIFA suspension and no funds to pay the salary of staff of the FA and maintain the secretariat, the PLB had to add 5% on the traditional 5% meant for SLFA to keep them running.

Security

During one of our security meeting, the national security platform informed us that crime rates dropped by almost 60% during the course of the league. This 60% has dropped since the league ended and we all know that MAC-P has been invoked to curtail increase in crime.

It means one thing, that agile young people need to be constantly engaged. Football is that avenue.

It means football is a national security issue and cannot be left to degenerate into illegality that will derail the gains we have made. Youth unemployment is a threat to national security in our continent general and our country specifically. If football is providing some solutions, the government should ensure this continues. Every action should be taken to sustain what we have achieved.

Conclusion

I cannot end this remark without thanking some specific people.

The disciplinary committee: Isaac Massaquoi, Durosimi Thomas, Justice Lornard Taylor, and Inspector Kelly Lamin (sick). Thanks for instilling disciplinary measures in the game for us. At a time when hooliganism surfaced, you were there to dispense justice without fair and favor. Violence in football is a major challenge and as a game of passion, discipline was needed.

Thanks to the Appeals Committee. LAWYERS Abdul-Tejan Cole, Victor Lansana; and Mary-Mae Kamara.

Special thanks to Vice President Mozola, Abdulrahman Swaray and Sorie Ibrahim for opening the doors to consult and collaborate at a difficult time.

  • Mr. President: Government needs to support the Salone Premier League for the next five years to be able to attract the kind of private sector sponsorship required. This will help with employment and will bring back football in full swing.

However, whatever support should be done within a transparent and accountable framework. This PLB is proud of its transparent operations and will soon publish our financial statement

  • These young people don’t understand the politics of FIFA or the fear of suspension, they want to be playing football every week. Without football, they degenerate into crimes and unemployment.
  • We need to upgrade some of the paying grounds. There was already a commitment to do this from the ministry of finance. We cannot continue to play on the condition of the pitches. We cannot continue to wait for FIFA to change artificial turf for our playing fields. Football is beneficial to both the ministries of youth and sports. And even the security.
  • The PLB Secretariat should continue to be upgraded. It is a modern world of computers and the internet. It cannot continue to lag behind.
  • Football is not for politicians to show strength and those whose sole purpose is to chest tossing should give way.
  • The reforms started should be taken forward but not choked on these clubs. Gradually we will get them to where we want.

Finally, let me once again thank the Government of Sierra Leone for this wonderful support and most importantly thank you football fans of Sierra Leone for your support season round. Your love and presence and money made the difference.

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