Of Graphic Sports and the FIFA warning

The Ebo Quansah Column

Ebo Quansah

I begin with an apology to readers out there. I am aware that followers of this column are waiting on political analysis after football took centre stage last week.

I am sorry, but the ramification of the yellow card shown to the Government of Ghana by FIFA, and the naked attempt by Felix Abayeteye, Editor of the Graphic Sports, to use state resources to advertise his ignorance in the administration of the game, calls for a certain line of action.

In his avowed aim of getting at the leadership of Ghana football, Felix Abayeteye is behaving like a punch-drunk boxer aiming wild blows at all directions. The misinformation in the Editor’s epistle to Ghanaians is of such grave concern to me that I feel it a duty to disabuse the minds of Ghanaians on the poison being served.

In the edition of December 3-6, 2010, Felix Abayateye urged the government of the Republic of Ghana to stop funding national football teams, on the basis that FIFA had instructed occupants of the Castle not to meddle in the affairs of the Ghana Football Association (GFA).

Under the heading TIME GOVERNMENTS WITHDRAW FUNDING, Abayateye’s editorial argued that sponsorship money from corporate Ghana to the GFA is state money, and therefore, should attract government auditing like the summons issued to the GFA to appear before the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) the other day.

Read the relevant portions of the editorial: “What FIFA is failing to appreciate is that corporate sponsors function in a state environment, and the sponsorship they may be doling out to the FA for football development and promotion are in lieu of what they stand to gain or recoup directly or indirectly from state environment.

“That is to say, these corporate sponsors are giving back to society what they have been benefiting from that society. It is therefore a corporate social responsibility. So, in a way, it is the state’s own resources which are being given back to it through the sponsorship of the Black Stars, and for which the sponsors even expect to be rewarded again by the state, through tax exempts and rebates.

“Simply put, the sponsorship money is state money, and, therefore, how it is expended by the FA should interest all Ghanaians, and FIFA can hardly have jurisdiction over that.”

For quite some time, Felix Abayeteye was General Secretary of the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG). During the period, the SWAG received monies from corporate sponsors to organise its award ceremonies. How much of the receivables did the SWAG account to the SFO, or any other government agency?

As a key member of the SWAG, from Deputy General Secretary to President, I can vouch that not a pesewa has ever been accounted for to any government organisation. How different is SWAG sponsorship money from deals brokered with corporate Ghana by the FA?

‘Unnatural deeds’, wrote William Shakespeare in Macbeth, ‘breed unusual troubles’. By trying to open up the FA to public ridicule, Felix Abayateye has only succeeded in advertising his ignorance.

In the first place, FIFA has not asked the GFA to account to it for sponsorship deals brokered by the FA.  All FIFA is saying, is that the Government of Ghana should demand to know how FA spends monies advanced to it from state coffers, and that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and any other political party that would take the centre stage of the governance system in this country, should leave the FA alone with regards to monies the football controlling body could attract on its own.

I am getting the impression from the said Graphic Sports editorial that Felix Abayeteye does not believe that the imposition of Abedi Ayew Pele on the FA to contest the vacant executive post on the Confederation of African Football (CAF), does amount to interference. It is a very interesting proposition from someone who once served on an FA committee.

Read the mind of the Editor of Graphic Sports: “As we once argued, if the FA knows that the Sports Ministry’s latest endorsement of Abedi for the CAF slot amounted to interference in the administration, then why did the FA itself solicit for the same ministerial or governmental endorsement or support for Kwesi Nyantakyi, whom it presented as the preferred candidate?”

I am tempted to giggle at this submission. The FA informed the Ministry of Sports to let the operators of the state machinery know that a person had been nominated to contest for a slot on an international organisation, in the name of the Republic of Ghana.

By that action, the Ghana Football Association was not seeking to ask the opinion of the state. It is required of any Ghanaian seeking to represent this nation outside our borders, to inform the state, through those operating the various organs on behalf of the people. Period!

I wish to take this opportunity to inform Felix, in case he does not know, that the decision to replace Kwesi Nyantakyi with Abedi Pele was not taken by the Minister of Sports. Akua Sena Dansua was only used as a conduit pipe by those hiding under the umbrella to cause mischief.

I can state on authority that the Sports Minister was instructed from above to effect the change. The poor woman agonised over this for a very long time, before mustering the courage to make her move.

I can add that her letter to the FA was only written after she had failed to get the Chief of Staff, Martey Newmann, and other influential people at the seat of Government, to reverse the order.

I can state further without fear of contradiction that the Minister is under intense pressure, as you read this piece, from those seeking protection under the umbrella, to vacate the Sports Ministry. I can add that certain elements in the party and government are gunning for her job, and are doing anything and everything to undermine her.

Felix Abayeteye may, knowingly or unknowingly, be doing the bidding of those who seem to think that there is no life beyond the control of the Sports Ministry. I wish to draw the attention of the management of Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) to this dangerous development.

Those operating Graphic Sports on behalf of the GCGL are untitled to their opinion, but when a newspaper editor, who from all indications should know better, suggests in an editorial that FIFA may not know what it is doing, because the world governing body had warned the government of Ghana over what amounts to clear interference in the running of football in this land of our birth, the repercussions could be serious for journalism as a noble profession in this country.

Since its inception, the Graphic Sports has played a very useful role in helping to shape sports promotion in this country.

Of late, however, it has become the medium for doing a hatchet job on those who have sacrificed their time and energy to promote sports, particularly, football. In the hands of Felix Abayeteye, the paper has become a tool for getting at the FA leadership, and those the Editor believes are getting in his way, for no apparent reason. .

If Abayeteye wants favours from those undermining the sitting Minister in their avowed aim of dislodging her and direct the Sports Ministry, that is his business. He has no business using state resources to do so. The Graphic Sports is a noble publication. He must be told in plain language that of late, he has only succeeded in dragging the paper into the mud. I shall return!

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