KATHMANDU, April 27: Match fixing allegations against a number of clubs had marred Martyrs Memorial League in the last edition but All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) has claimed that the league would not court such allegations in the upcoming edition that will kick off on Thursday.
"We have seriously considered match-fixing allegations against clubs in the last edition. ANFA faced difficulties investigating such allegations as it didn´t have clear regulations," said ANFA President Ganesh Thapa.
Thapa claimed that ANFA has already formulated strict tournament regulations while clubs have promised to keep the game clean. "We are determined to keep the game clean. We´ll investigate every match that comes under suspicion. If we find any team guilty of match-fixing, we´ll hand over the case to the police," said Thapa.
ANFA has scheduled its ambitious National League from mid December. Martyrs Memorial Red Bull A-division League will be a qualifying tournament for the proposed National League.
Meanwhile, ANFA leadership knows well that the match-fixing could be their headache even in the National League. "Top eight clubs from Martyrs Memorial League and two teams from Regional League are to participate in the National League and there is no provision of relegations at this level. The lack of relegation provision could lead teams to fix matches and we are serious about the issue," said president Thapa.
ANFA, however, has several other challenges ahead of both the leagues.
The rainy season could create troubles in the Martyrs Memorial League. As the Dasharath Stadium has to host two matches a day, the rainy season could create trouble for maintenance of ground conditions.
The stadium had remained empty in the most of the matches in the last edition of Martyrs Memorial League and this problem could be more striking in the upcoming edition. There are 18 clubs in A-division currently and the clubs are not of the same standard since eight clubs have been promoted at once to A-division following the rifts within ANFA.
"Managing financial crunch and lack of proper infrastructures in districts could be another problem for the National League," said Thapa. "ANFA has to invest a huge amount of money to organize leagues at the district, regional and national level and I´m more concerned about the issue," Thapa added.
Likewise, Thapa said that the home and away system in the national league could trouble ANFA in the management of National League. "If any district that qualified for the National League lacks proper infrastructure, it will be very difficult to execute our plan of home and away," said Thapa.
There will be 153 matches in the Martyrs Memorial League and 90 matches in the National League. There are 12 A-division districts and leagues in every district. The winners of the leagues then compete at the regional level. Around 500 matches will be played until the completion of the National League.
"This is a very big event and we are hopeful of tackling all the challenges with proper monitoring," said Sanjeev Mishra, the development director at ANFA.
President Thapa also reiterated the need for proper monitoring to successfully conduct leagues at the district and regional level. "We have adequate number of referees but we need other technical manpower for regulating the district leagues and reporting about it to ANFA. We´ll solve this problem through continuous monitoring," said Thapa.
However, Thapa held doubts over the completion of the National League without encountering problems. "It is an ambitious project and we are still in the stage of learning by doing. I hope we´ll succeed in resolving the challenges,” said Thapa.