Let me take this opportunity to congratulate you on your re-election as President of the Ghana Football Association. This means you will be in office until somewhere in 2019 and I will not be surprised if you would want to contest again when that time comes.
I am writing you this letter to not only remind you that as you continue in your role as President, there will be well-meaning people like myself, who will remain critically objective as far as our football is concerned, but also to examine the speech you gave after winning the elections on Tuesday morning.
Youth development – conveyer belt of talent
I was delighted to see that you want to ‘improve the colts leagues and youth football like the free training courses for coaches of colts clubs while encouraging Premier and Division One League clubs to entrench themselves into the Under 17 leagues to churn out more talents.’ It is very important for football to be developed at the grassroots level and so I have a suggestion to make.
I believe that going forward, it would be a good move by the GFA to ask every club in the Premier League and Division to begin a roadmap for developing an academy. The roadmap can take between three to five years to complete. What will happen is that the clubs will pay more attention to scouting for younger players and will have strong youth and reserve teams so that there is a steady conveyer belt of talent into the main teams. I know the GFA tried to organize the reserve league, but frankly, it was done without putting the necessary structures in place. A medium to long term plan is needed to ensure that no club is bereft of talents because Ghana is a hotbed of footballing talent.
Pay the players well – they will stay in Ghana
I also applaud your plan to ensure the full implementation of the Club Licensing system, including the provision of insurance and pension schemes for players. May I add that it is time for the GFA to abolish the system where clubs pay (or promise to pay) hefty signing on fees for players and then pay them very meager salaries. I have seen with my own eyes the number of players who present petitions to the Player Status Committee of the GFA because clubs have failed to pay them their signing on fees. What should happen is that players signing on for clubs should receive a maximum of three months salary advance, so that players can receive between GH¢1500 – GH¢2000 a month in wages, aside the other bonuses that may accrue from wins. This will help keep star players in the Premier League a little while longer and stimulate more interest in the local game. I would also suggest that going forward, clubs in the Premier League should be able to provide bank guarantees of GH¢100,000 to be licensed to play, as well as the requisite administrative infrastructure.
GFA, stop winking at the girl in the dark – start promoting your own league
Kwesi, where I disagree with you is your assertion that the foreign league has affected and will continue to affect spectatoring of our local game. You accuse the media of being colonized by the foreign leagues and you are calling for a collective effort in promoting the league. It is a good call, but let me tell you where I disagree with you. There is a saying that doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. Not even the girl knows what you are doing. The GFA is the owner of the Premier League, and so the primary promoter of the Premier League is the GFA! I may be sounding like a broken record Kwesi, but one of the things the GFA should be doing is to advertise the league by buying advertising space on billboards, newspapers and on electronic media. Again, the GFA should make it manadatory for clubs to have pre-match press conferences before every Premier League match. This will allow the media to feed off a lot of information and that helps in promoting the league. Also, clubs have to be spoken to in regard of the way journalists are treated when they cover matches. Journalists are intimidated when they travel to cover games and in some cases are assaulted. These are things that should be discouraged and that will also help promote the league. I do agree with you that we all need to help in promoting the league, but the promotion has to start from you.
Revamp the marketing department and add value to the league
Again, the marketing department of the GFA is doing absolutely nothing to promote the league or leverage on its value. I have always wondered why, after telecommunications company Glo was paying $3 million a year to sponsor the league, First Capital Plus Bank now pays $2 million a year. Does that mean that the Premier League is losing its value? I do not think so.
Indeed, Kwesi, I believe it is because the marketing department is doing nothing to provide the sponsor with the requisite mileage in return for the money being invested. In your acceptance speech, you mention that you want to bring in more marketers to help promote the league. You can start by revamping your marketing department so that after giving the right kind of mileage to your sponsors, you will be in a better position to negotiate for more money.
The same applies to your deal with Supersport. You have to ensure that games are played on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and sometimes Tuesdays, so that more Premier League games are seen on TV. Indeed, some games can be played at different times on the same day. That automatically increases visibility anf mileage for the sponsors and will also allow you to ask for more than the $700,000 a year you are getting from Supersport.
So you see Kwesi, whilst we have to do more as media men, we cannot do it 100%. The GFA also has to do its part and I can promise you that despite the existence of the foreign leagues, people will start going back to the stadia again.
Get government onside with regard to infrastructure
I notice that you mention football infrastructural development in your speech. It is a good call, but I believe you have to work hand in hand with the state to achieve your goals in that direction. Fact is, the state is responsible for the provision of such infrastructure. At the moment, Tamale is the one city that has the most football parks in the country. Many of the parks across the nation have been encroached upon and I think government has to step in. Good luck in that endeavor.
Cut down number of referees and committee members
Finally, I believe that something you can do which will leave a lasting legacy is to reduce the number of referees in the Premier League. In my view, too many referees handle games in the top flight and not only does the GFA struggle to pay their allowances, but corruption abounds. You can see a referee banned for a month and returning to handle games again. My proposal is that you use a performance index to cut down the number of referees to about 12 or 14 handling Premier League matches. You will then have the capacity to pay them better and that should improve refereeing standards. Again, you might also want to look at reducing the number of people on the various committees at the GFA. I remember my time as Division One League Board member. When I joined, the GFA was trying to feed each committee member at every meeting. Eventually, the food element was taken out, but drinks are still served. All this involves spending a lot of money. It is a fact that some of the members don’t work at all. I would suggest that you cut down the membership of most of the committees from 12 to 6 for a start. That should save the GFA some money.
I genuinely wish you well, Kwesi and I can promise you that, despite the opinions of those around you that I am an enemy of the GFA, I will continue to objectively analyse your performance as you go along. All the best and I will be cheering you on if you do well, and constructively criticize if all does not go well.