By G9ija

The Imo State Chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria on Tuesday in Owerri urged Governor Hope Uzodimma to sack the state’s Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Dan Ogu.

This was contained in a communique issued by the sports reporting body at the end of its congress in Owerri, Imo State.

SWAN said this was necessary in view of the relegation of Heartland FC of Owerri to the lower league.

The sports journalists also called for the removal of the club’s General Manager, Promise Nwachukwu, over the relegation from the Nigeria Professional Football League after the 2021/2022 campaign.

They advised Uzodimma to “appoint a football technocrat” to head the Youth and Sports Ministry and ensure a total overhauling of the Heartland FC’s management.

The group identified poor management by the club’s supervisors as well as inadequate funding as the major reasons for the Owerri-based club’s relegation to the lower league.

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that Heartland FC players boycotted several training sessions during the immediate-past season.

They also engaged in a protest on the streets of Owerri during the last NPFL campaign over unpaid salary arrears.

NAN reports that the club’s relegation, however, has since then generated wide criticism from sports stakeholders and the team’s fans.

Imo State SWAN, in the communique jointly signed by its Chairman, Everest Ezihe, and Secretary, Tunde Liadi, urged Uzodimma to ensure the club’s instant comeback to the Nigerian league’s top-flight.

The communique said: “Imo SWAN expresses dismay and observes with regrets the speed with which the state’s darling club was forced into relegation again, owing to internal wrangling barely a few seasons after the club suffered the same fate.

“We advocate a total overhaul and change of Heartland FC management with a substantive chairman or a General Manager who has the capacity to reposition the club.”

Also, Imo State SWAN suggested that both Heartland FC and Heartland Queens, which is a state-owned women football club based in Owerri, be funded through annual budgets.

“They should be funded through budgets that will run for a year, at least for a whole season, and not just on a match-by-match basis which has stifled both clubs’ progress in the past few seasons,” it said.

The group further appealed to Governor Uzodimma to offer proper contracts and welfare packages to players and management officials of Heartland FC and Heartland Queens.

It said: “This will help to stem the tide of incessant exodus of quality players at the end of every season.”

It also called for the improvement and proper maintenance of the playing surface of Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri, saying this would aid Heartland FC’s early comeback to the NPFL.