LMC bans Heartland FC from signing new players, fines club N13.5m

The League Management Company on Thursday said it has banned Heartland Football Club of Owerri from signing new players for the next two registration periods.
It said in a statement by Harry Iwuala, its Head of Special Projects, that the ban would be in place until the club complied with its ruling on separate complaints against it.
Two former players of the club, Maduabuchi Okereke and Fatunwase Alfred Olusegun, had laid complaints of unlawful termination of contract and indebtedness.
Maduabuchi and Fatunwase had in separate petitions to the LMC dated November 5, 2019 claimed overdue payables, wrongful termination of contract and compensation.
While Maduabuchi laid claims for a total of N10.4 million, Fatunwase asked for a total of N6.25 million.
In its ruling communicated to Heartland FC on Monday, the LMC noted that the club failed to respond to the claims of the players.
It said: “This was in spite of having been invited by the LMC to state its case through a letter dated January 28, 2020.”
The LMC, who are the organisers of the Nigeria Professional Football League, said the players and the club did execute separate employment contracts (in the form of the NPFL Standard Player Contract).
It said: “The duration of this was November 10, 2018 to November 9, 2021.”
The league organisers said they rejected a letter of clearance purportedly issued the players by Heartland FC on August 28, 2019 and which was simply addressed: “To whom it may concern.”
It added: “The clearance letter purported that it was issued at the request of the players following which they were released with no further financial obligations from the club towards them.”
In rejecting the clearance letter issued the players, the LMC stated that a “contract or agreement” must be signed or executed by each party to the said agreement.
It said: “The fact that the clearance letter was signed only by the club through its General Manager indicates that it cannot be deemed to be an agreement that binds the player.”
It further found that the players sent separate default notices to the club on September 30, 2019, giving a deadline of 14 days for payment of the claims.
The LMC then ruled that the improper release or clearance letter issued by the Club strengthened the players’ claims of wrongful termination.
It went on to say: “As a result of the failure of the club to respond to the allegations, we are constrained to determine the case on the strength of the available evidence.”
Heartland FC was then ordered to pay Maduabuchi N7.2 million, representing the remaining two years of his three-year contract.
It is to also pay N900,000 being unpaid arrears of three months consolidated salary stipulated in the contract before it was wrongfully terminated by the club.
The LMC added: “Fatunwase was awarded N4.8 million, representing the remaining two years of his three-year contract, and N600,000 also, being unpaid arrears of three months consolidated salary as stipulated in the contract before it was wrongfully terminated by the club.”
Iwuala said the ruling sent to Heartland FC and the petitioners further stated thus: “Consequently, pursuant to Rule B9.45.4, the club is banned from registering any new players in the next two entire and consecutive registration periods.”
It however noted that this was provided that the ban would be lifted immediately upon confirmation that the payables overdue towards the players were paid.
“If at the end of the period of the ban, the sums mentioned in 19a and 19b above are not paid, the matter shall be duly reviewed,” the LMC warned.