Editorial: Does Ghana care about development of sports?

In December 2023, the National Sports Authority (NSA) took an unpopular decision to close down the Accra Sports Stadium at the time the first round of Ghana premier league was ongoing. After being severely criticized over this obvious poor judgment, the NSA came out to explain that when stadiums are rented out to the premier league clubs, they do not get enough revenue from them.

However, when it is given out for entertainment purposes, they rake in enough revenue. The NSA, however, failed to mention the amount they have been charging from those who rent the stadiums for musical shows among others. However, when the NSA appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament recently, they claimed they charged a little over GHS70,000 for those who used the Accra Sports Stadium either for musical show or concert.

Following this revelation, the management of Stonebwoy, who rented the Accra stadium for a mega musical show in December last year, came out to state that they paid GHS150, 000 and not the GHS70, 000 quoted by the NSA, when its officials appeared before the Public Accounts Committee. NSA is yet to come out to debunk the claim being made by Stonebwoy’s management.

In the opinion of The Chronicle, this controversy should never be swept under the carpet. The relevant state agencies must probe the allegation and if NSA is found culpable, the officials must be made to face the full rigours of the law. We are saying this because if what Stonebwoy is saying is actually true, it means about GHS80,000 of state money has been ‘stolen’. If people are languishing in jail for stealing a common fowl, then those who use the pen to steal must also be made to face the same punishment.

But this is just a digression, our main focus today is the way the government, through NSA, is managing the few sports facilities we have in this country. Following our decision as a country to host the African Cup of Nations in 2008, the John Agyekum Kufuor government decided to build two new stadia with a combined capacity of 40,000.

These new stadia were sited in Tamale and Sekondi respectively. But years down the line, the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the NSA have neglected the facilities. As we put this piece together, the facilities at the Essipong Stadium in Sekondi have deteriorated to the extent that it can no more be used for the purposes for which it was constructed.

The Tamale one is in fairly good condition, but the pitch is an eyesore. As we published yesterday, the grasses have turned yellow instead of green. Some of the seats in the stadium are nothing to write home about. Though The Chronicle has been critical on the NSA for killing football in this soccer crazy nation, we do not think they can, this time around, be blamed for the sorry state of the two stadia.

It is the duty of the government to use state resources to maintain these sporting facilities, but because she does not apparently value the contribution of sports and football in particular to our national economy, the facilities have been neglected. Every football loving Ghanaian was one way or the other affected by the painful exit of the senior national soccer team, the Black Stars, from the AFCON 2023 tournament that has just ended in Ivory Coast.

We all (including the government) are crying, but the root cause of the problem has been relegated to the background. Why should we, in this modern time, allow two premier league clubs – Kotoko and Karela – to play on such a pitch at the Aliu Mahama Stadium?

Yes, some officials of the Ghana Football Association are contributing to the downfall of the game in Ghana, but the neglect of the facilities that promote the game is the worse form of it. In Ghana, football and politics are inextricably interwoven – in other words one cannot separate the two. It will, therefore, be a dangerous decision for any government in Ghana to neglect sports and football in particular.

Football, apart from entertainment angle, has given employment to the youth. Millions of dollars are being transferred into our economy from Ghanaian players plying their trades outside the shores of the country every year. In view of this, it will be wrong for any government to think or assume that football is not her business and does not, therefore, care whether the few facilities we have in the country are in good conditions or not.

Any country that has high youth unemployment is always saddled with problems. We will, therefore, be playing with fire if we allow sporting facilities to deteriorate. We admit that football clubs are owned by private individuals, but here in Africa, it is the duty of the government to provide the facilities for these clubs to function well.

What is going on, especially the attitude of NSA, which has the penchant of closing down stadia for entertainment purposes is very sickening and like an egg, it will one day explode in our faces.


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