OPL SEEKS TO CRACK THE WHIP ON INDISCIPLINE

By: Ashok Purohit

In a bid to curb indiscipline on the field during the new domestic football season, the Omantel Professional League (OPL) has recommended stringent monetary penalty for errant players, with the punishment to be dealt being based on the number of yellow and red cards the players receive.

This is one of several proposals that have been put forth by the OPL committee to the Oman Football Association’s (OFA) board for ratification.

Speaking to Muscat Daily, Sheikh Shabib al Hosni, the OPL’s chief executive, said, “We are going to begin our domestic season with the Super Cup match between Al Arouba, the OPL champion, and Fanja, the His Majesty’s Cup runner-up, on August 14.”

The season-opener traditionally features the defending champions of the OPL and the HM’s Cup. But since Arouba had won both the titles last season, Fanja will feature in the Super Cup game this time round as the next best finisher in the HM’s Cup.

Hosni said that the growing instances of on-field indiscipline among the players has become a matter of concern and fines could be needed to be introduced to curb the menace. “Last season, we had a record number of cards. As many as 764 cards were shown in the OPL itself. It is a record and we were obviously concerned,” Hosni said.

“Out of those 764, 724 were bookings, 23 were second yellow cards in the same game, leading to send-offs, and 17 were straight red cards.”

The figures for last season’s first and second division leagues are not hugely different. As per official records, the first division league witnessed 679 (yellow), 30 (double yellow) and 26 (red) cards. In the second division league, there were 336 (yellow), 19 (double yellow) and 17 (red) cards.

Hosni said the OFA board has yet to ratify the recommendations, adding that the proposals include fines for delay in registration of teams for a match, with errant team managers also facing the brunt.

Also, the OPL boss said the committee has taken steps to avoid a repeat of clubs pulling out of matches in the last minute.

Al Nahda had refused to play against Dhofar last season just before the start of the match, protesting a delay in the availability of the ground.

The pullout resulted in the OPL docking six points off Al Nahda. However, an OFA arbitration panel later ruled in favour of Al Nahda, restored its six points and ordered the OFA to pay the club RO10,000 in damages caused by the abandonment and the subsequent penalty.

Hosni said, “This season, we will host OPL matches only at the sports complexes, while the first-division league will be played at the club grounds. Last year, that pullout took place since the ground was also used for a first-division game. There were instances when OPL matches were delayed due to late completion of first-division matches.”