AGENDA FOR GHANA SPORT (2021 – 2024): MATTERS ARISING (Final Part 5)

 

By Magnus Rex Danquah

Land Economist, Sport Business Consultant, Bid Architect & Manager for CAN 2008 Tournament and 13th African Games Ghana 2023

WHEN I decided to write these series, the decision was based on the fact that I have seen many nice gentlemen and the only lady appointed as Ministers for Youth and Sports and come to the office with great intentions of REPOSITIONING GHANA SPORTS FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF OUR PEOPLE but then reshuffled within days or months, lost the way for making the management of the BLACK STARS the only job description of the office, or pursue infrastructural developments not for just provision for their sake but other interests.

Hon. E. T. Mensah is touted as the longest serving Ghana’s Minister for Youth and Sports (appointed to the office from 27th April, 1993 and left 6th January, 2001 when NDC government handed over to NPP administration), whilst Hon. Mallam A. Y. Isa has the record of the shortest stay (assumed office on Valentine’s Day 14th February, 2001 and left on 14th March, 2001).

Hon. Papa Owusu-Ankomah, my old School mate, has been appointed twice to the Ministry: the first time to take over from Hon. Mallam A. Y. Isa, after his exit (from 1st August, 2001 to 16th October, 2001) and came back as part of the restructured joint Ministry of Education, Science and Sports (from 8th May, 2006 to 6th August, 2007).

My favourite Minister for Youth and Sports has been the ‘Gentleman of Gentlemen’, the late Hon. Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, who was the Minister from 17th April, 2003 to 3rd February, 2005. He was most instrumental in the success story of Ghana’s bid for the rights to host and organize the 26th MTN Africa Cup of Nation (CAN 2008), and was with us in the 6th October City Headquarters of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) that fateful day, when Ghana beat Libya by 9 votes to 3 to secure the rights. Indeed, when a 12-member delegation of British businesses visited Ghana to explore business opportunities associated with CAN 2008, Hon. Baah-Wiredu was so exemplary in the discussions to great success.

Again, there was this Italian Professor of Architecture who visited in relation with the CAN 2008 tournament to explore architectural design opportunities, he had visited the Castle then and was directed to see me: this Italian architect, unfortunately was so full of himself and became very bossy in his demands of the extent of preliminary work. I told him pointedly that we will have to go through local procurement processes before I can provide him with the details that he required; just at that moment, the late Hon. Minister entered the office where we were having the discussions. The Italian architect got up rudely to report me to the Minister and he only asked: “Is that what Mr. RexDanquah said?” and the gentleman replied in the affirmative. He just informed him, “RexDanquah is the person in charge of the CAN 2008 Project so just listen and act accordingly”. Such was the caliber of the late Hon. Baah-Wiredu.

There are so many other stories I could write about for good reason and it is to let the Minister-designate be mindful of what others like my kind will say about him after his tenure of office, as to how he comported himself as a Minister of State, irrespective of his age; that by his exploits, good or bad, will create opportunities for others of his age group.

The tasks before a Minister for Youth and Sports isn’t too complicated but most demanding because of the number of people, both friends foes, who would besiege his office and project personal interests or agendas as that akin to that of the nation or state, creating minefields even before he assumes office. As they say in Literature: “beware of the ‘Ides of March” as I have gone to great length to enumerate all these as a guide for your time in office as the Minister for Youth and Sports. If you focus on these issues, posterity will judge your tenure of office well.

At least, none of your predecessors had the opportunity of such an exercise before assumption of office, setting out such an AGENDA FOR GHANA SPORTS to inform what could be your priorities and how to engage the various stakeholders in the industry as well as enforce the line defined by the Sports Act, 2016 (Act 934) – lines between NATIONAL SPORTS AUTHORITY (NSA) in terms of its roles and functions as against that of the MINISTRY OF YOUTH AND SPORTS. Therein lies the roadmap for your success as the Minister for Youth and Sports.

My last article thus deals with the following issues: Sports for Academic Credits, Preparing Team Ghana for African Games 2023, Managing National Teams, MOYS Debt Management and the Regulations to be enacted under the Sports Act, 2016 (Act 934).

PURSUE SPORT FOR ACADEMIC CREDITS AT ALL EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

One of the LEGACIES that we had planned for winning the rights to host and organize the 13th African Games in 2023 was as stated in the PRESIDENTIAL FOREWORD for the Bid Document:

“We are also ready to leverage the GHANA 2023 Games to launch a national campaign by the Ministry of Youth and Sports under the theme: ‘STAY FIT AND HEALTHY, PLAY A GAME’ to market the games through all facets of our

national life as well as blend sports with academia by adopting the ‘SPORTS FOR ACADEMIC CREDIT’ programme for schools, colleges and tertiary institutions so that our sportsmen and women are better placed to marry their academic life with their continued participation in sports.” – HE NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO President of the Republic of Ghana

In the preparation of Ghana’s Bid Document for the 13th African Games, 2023 as the Bid Architect and Manager, we engaged three (3) tertiary institutions, namely the University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) as possible CO-GAMES VILLAGES for the participating athletes; and Accra, Cape Coast and Kumasi as Co-Host Cities. This was premised on the best option for the management of facilities post-Games.

We met the Vice Chancellors of the three tertiary institutions and their respective Sports Directorates and Land Use Planning officers on possible spaces for the allocation of sports facilities as well as discussed the issues of Sports for Academic Credits as a motivating factor for strengthening the development of sports at the tertiary level.

It would be prudent that the Minister for Youth and Sports collaborates with his colleague Minister for Education to engage with the various Heads of Public & Private tertiary institutions in collaborations with the Ghana Universities Sports Associations (GUSA), Ghana Technical Universities Sports Association (GHATUSA), the Private Universities Student Sports Association of Ghana (PUSSAG) and the Colleges of Education Sports Association (COESA) – who are responsible for the athletes at the universities; and have the necessary ACCORDS executed.

It will also be necessary, once again, to engage the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service (GES) towards the evolution of a nationwide incentives regime at all the Senior High Schools (SHS) to promote sports in such a way that it will not disadvantage the athletes by playing any kind of sports at the expense of his academics.

I estimate that this exercise should be concluded by the end of the third quarter, month ending September 2021.

PREPARING TEAM GHANA FOR AFRICAN GAMES 2023

For some very personal reasons, I have sworn to myself not to comment on any matter to do with the hosting and organization of the 13th African Games scheduled for the month of September 2023. However, this does not take away my natural rights as a Ghanaian, more than passionate about Sports in the country.

I must confess, I have been more than fortunate to be associated at the top levels of the management of the SCSA Zone Football Championship hosted in 1986, the Ghana “99 African Football Youth Championship hosted in 1999, the 26th MTN Africa Cup of Nations (CAN 2008) and the 9th AfHF African Cup of Nations Hockey Championship hosted in 2009.

Funnily and after much work done on the concept of CO-HOSTING of major sporting events, including propagating the first thought of bidding for the rights to CO-HOST a FIFA WORLD CUP 20 years before (if you are in doubt ask Kwabena Yeboah, the President of the Sports Writers Association of Ghana –SWAG as well as senior Nana Sam Brew-Butler, former Chairman of GFA, when he sought my consent to propose the idea of CO-HOSTING A CAF TOURNAMENT as in collaboration with the GFA), after leveraging my expertise for the lobbying to secure the rights to co-host the 2000 AFCON with Nigeria, I was asked by the then Minister for Youth and Sports, Hon. E. T. Mensah to step aside. His reasons being that the then GFA objected to my inclusion on the Local Organizing Committee (LOC).

My former Secretary during the 1999 Youth Championship and senior at School, was appointed to head the Secretariat. Truthfully, I never took such things personal but then remember that during the CAN 2008, I had a visit by Hon. E. T. Mensah and a friend at the LOC Secretariat and I thanked him for all the opportunities he gave me during his tenure at the Ministry, much to the annoyance of some personalities then. So I understand what happened with the 2023 African Games matters.

However, as a Ghanaian and as the consultant who knitted the YOUTH IN ELITE SPORT FOR GHANA stimulus package, executed between the National Sports Authority (NSA) and the Youth Employment Agency (YEA), I was placed in unique position to appeal to the YEA to consider a similar package for the TEAM GHANA to represent the host nation, Ghana at the 13th African Games in 2023 as motivation for them in their preparations to participate and excel in the over twenty-four (24) disciplines at the Games.

If care is not taken, we might end up as a nation that hosted the Games and flopped miserably at the Games, even as we strengthen the project management aspect of every aspect of the hosting and organization.

To this end, I would entreat the Hon. Minister to take this as one of his priorities for the second quarter, month ending June 2021 to have this sealed with another stimulus Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to motivate the selected members of the Team Ghana for all the competing disciplines.

MANAGING NATIONAL TEAMS

According to the Sports Act, 2016 (Act 934), the functions of the National Sports Authority (NSA) include: (3)(d) – provide financial and other assistance to a team or person for the purpose of enabling that team or person to represent the Republic in international competitions in or outside the Republic; and then (3) (i) (i – v) –  in collaboration with the Ministry, ensure (i) the provision of necessary facilities required for building national teams; (ii) the provision of funds for the purpose of managing national teams; (iii) the submission of proposals on matters relating to the development and management of national teams; (iv) transparency and accountability in the development of national teams; and (v) that all moneys received by way of sponsorship, gifts and any other benefits for national teams are properly accounted for.

These portions of the Act define whose responsibility it is for the management of all national teams i.e. the National Sports Authority (NSA), the body charged with the responsibility of managing national teams of all disciplines.

Indeed, the years before Ghana’s qualification for the Black Stars to participate in the 2006 FIFA WORLD CUP in Germany and before the enactment of the Sports Act, 2016 (Act 934), the norm was what had been captured in the Act, except that the entire responsibility for the financial management of the national FOOTBALL teams have been made the preserve of the Ministry. This is against the Act 934.

If for any reason, the Ministry desires to maintain the current financial management of the national FOOTBALL teams then the proper thing is to AMEND the Act to reflect same, otherwise back to the status quo ante. This decision should be made by the end of the second quarter of the month, June 2021.

MOYS DEBT MANAGEMENT

First, permit me to admit without knowing that I will expatiating purely from the point of some personal examples from the hugely successful hosting and organization of the 26th MTN Africa Cup of Nations (CAN 2008).

I was able to secure a sponsorship package of a fleet of VW vehicles – Touareg, Passat and Polo Sedan plus others of Toyota brand – Land Cruiser, Avensis, Corolla and Pick Up vehicles, which were used by the LOC Secretariat and these were returned to the Ministry after the submission of the Tournament Report.

I also, on my own volution, wrote to the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, late Van Lare Dorsoo, who incidentally was again, member of the LOC and Chairman of the Finance Committee for the BOG to conduct an Economic Impact Assessment of CAN 2008 on Ghana’s Economy.

What is most crucial to this topic is about ATTITUDES to things of the State and how manage resources of State placed under our care, management and authority.

At the end of CAN 2008, we had over a million dollar / Gh Cedis (remember it was GH₵0.90 to US$1.00 exchange rate then) in the LOC”s account of fund mobilization and this outstanding amount plus the vehicles were transferred to the Ministry’s without any inhibitions, whatsoever. This was because, it was the right and appropriate thing to do as a NATIONALIST. My staff at the LOC requested to purchase the vehicles they had used prior to the event, but I insisted and rather made an appeal to the Ministry, which was virtually refused whilst some of those vehicles were rather sold to the staff of the Ministry.

Indeed, I personally made myself available for all legally issues that arose till they were all resolved, bearing my own transportation for each appearance.

If I set these against the hosting and organization of the 11th Women’s AFCON that we had the privilege of hosting in 2018 and the fact that there are still suppliers owed two years plus after the tournament just isn’t good enough, especially where funds should have been made available by the end of the tournament to bring closure.

I am inclined to think that there has to be a new way of addressing these financial canker that has bedeviled the Ministry for some years now. If I am a Minister, I would demand quarterly returns, even as the Chief Director remains the CEO of the Ministry. This is with the full understanding and appreciation that the political head should always know the true state of affairs, even if by the quarter and this I would wish the Minister-designate would look at with some seriousness.

REGULATIONS TO BE ENACTED UNDER THE SPORTS ACT, 2016 (ACT 934)

In the last four years, there has been talk of licensing all commercial gyms to bring them online to operate within set standards as certified by the NSA to grade all those operating in the country and to ensure they are manned by qualified technical personnel, including physiotherapists.

There is also the issue of Article 29 (1) (a – m) which would require the special attention of the Minister and I know for a fact that some work had been done during the tenure of Hon. Osei Bonsu Amoah, MP as the then Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports with the engagement of a foreign consultant to assist the Ministry work on some of these sub-sections of the Act 934.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

I am not sure if you have been excited by the 5 – part AGENDA FOR GHANA SPORTS: Matters Arising, dear Hon. Minister – designate for Youth and Sports as I conclude and sincerely I am lost for approach and style as to how to end.

Do I end by recalling the issues I have raised in respect of the National Sport Policy, the National Sport Fund in the Part One or issues in Parts 2, 3 and 4 or even the Final Part 5?

What I am content with, for me, is the fact that for once in lifetime during the 40-years plus I have been associated with Ghana Sports either as the Editor of the award-winning SPORTS COIN; or as the Host of the GBC-TV program ‘SPORTS DIGEST’ for many years; or organizing the Annual Ohene Djan Memorial Lectures as a platform for sports development; acquiring the rights for the LIVE TELECAST OF 1992 EUROPEAN CUP OF NATIONS & BARCELONA OLYMPIAD in Ghana; organizing the Accra Biennial Football Expo; hosting the Annual Sports Sponsors Awards; the Annual Toyota’s Most Exciting Player Awards and sponsored by then Ghamot Company for over 15 years; organizing the Peugeot Champion of Champions Football Cup in 1992 and sponsored by SCOA Motors; organizing the SPORTS CONFERENCE ON ESTABLISHING GHANA SPORTS AS AN EMERGING INDUSTRY: Challenges & Prospects; and the Annual TOYOTA HOCKEY LEAGUE in Ghana, amongst several other initiatives; we are able as a nation to submit a set of issues as an AGENDA for a Minister-designate for Youth and Sports for the period 2021-2024.

If after his tenure of office by 2024, he would have achieved even 50% (fifty percent) of the issues raised by these publications, we would have made the mark to lift Ghana Sports to the next level of competing globally. Thank you.

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