A mass exodus of players looms NPFL side Heartland Football Club after transfer ban as Imo State government begins administrative structure and financial books of the club in the current season.
The situation at Heartland is exacerbated by a two-season transfer ban the League Management Company, (LMC) slammed on the club after they were found guilty of breaching the rules concerning the NPFL players’ contracts and welfare.
According to Completesports checks reveal that soon after the 2018/2019 season, the club weeded out a large chunk of their bona fide players and embarked on a disjointed recruitment spree.
“The players sacked prior to the start of the current season were players who still had existing contracts, but we were not duly paid off,” one of the affected players told Completesports.com in Owerri.
“All efforts by the players to get justice were rebuffed, hence our decision to petition the LMC who twice wrote to Heartland management, but they refused to respond.
“The unwillingness of the management to respond positively to the LMC memos and possibly affect the payment of the players’ outstanding entitlements forced the league body to slam the club with a two-season transfer ban.”
It was gathered that despite the sacking of the players, the new hierarchy of the five-time Nigerian Champions packed their 2019/2020 season squad full with loanee players.
“About 90% of Heartland’s current players are on loan. The few that are supposed to be our bona fide players have not had their full clearance fees paid,” a member of the dissolved board said.
“What this means is that once the current season ends, the club will have few players as bona fide players because by then, the other players’ one-season loan deals would have ended”.
Copletesports.com recalls that on the assumption of office on May 29, 2019, Governor Emeka Ihedioha released the sum of N45m to the club to recruit quality players and prepare for the season.
He also reportedly released another N13m for the club to embark on a preseason camping at NEROS Stadium, Nanka in Anambra State.
Heartland was said to have spent only three days at Nanka, with tongues wagging as to how N13m could have been spent within so short a time.
Chairman of the club at the time, Charles Ezekwem, while responding to Completesports.com’s inquiry, confirmed that governor Ihedioha indeed gave the club a N45m takeoff grant.
“We spent part of it in settling some debts we met on the ground”, he said without revealing the details of the debts.