Last week, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, read the government’s 2018 financial statement, often referred to as the budget, with the sports fraternity left disappointed at the allocation to Sports for next year.
During his presentation of the budget highlights before the floor of Parliament, very little mention was made of sports which left sports enthusiasts and the sports media disappointed.
However, a careful scrutiny of the allocation to the sports sector indicates about a 30 per cent reduction in funding over the previous year’s apportionment. The scenario expectedly left many sports administrators livid over what they felt was a lack of attention and priority to sports by the government. Even officials of the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS) were equally disappointed that their budgetary projections were not met, as some sectors of the economy experienced budget cuts.
Yes, a slash of about 30 per cent is a big disincentive to the development of sports as it makes it difficult for the ministry to ensure that the various sporting federations under the National Sports Authority get a slice of their budgetary allocation, as has been the trend in recent years.
The sports allocation is often swallowed up by emoluments for staff of the ministry, department and agencies under MOYS with very little left for CapEx (Capital Expenditure) and for sports development, particularly for years where the national football teams are seriously involved in international competitions.
The relatively smaller quantum in the sports budget was largely due to the absence of the Black Stars from the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia as their campaign, from preparation to the competition itself, involve big budgets. Nonetheless, their absence is still not a blessing in disguise for the other sporting disciplines, often starved of funding.
In 2018, for instance, the national female teams will be very busy with the Black Maidens and Black Princesses already playing qualification matches for the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in France and the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay respectively, while the senior team, the Black Queens, will be playing in the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations to be hosted by Ghana. The tournament itself finds a significant place in the budget statement since money has been devoted to renovate some of the stadia to be used for the competition.
Also next year is the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, among other international competitions that Ghana will be participating in which the budget is expected to support.
It is significant to note also that the Finance Minister spoke about the establishment of a Sports Fund to help deal with the financing of sports. Even though very little was given about how the fund would run and support sports, the Graphic Sports believes that such a trust is long overdue to help deal with the perennial issue of funding.
The Sports Ministry will have to give more details about the fund and perhaps open it up for discussion and get the private sector plugged into the bigger vision to create a big and sustainable pool of resources to develop Ghana sports.
The establishment almost two decades ago of the GETFund, which helps to support educational infrastructure and other related investments, has been a key driver of the development in the education sector which takes the biggest slice of the national budget. A similar thing is what the sports sector needs to provide the right investment beyond what is provided in the national budget which hardly benefits the various sports associations, often left to the benevolence of philanthropists and corporate handouts. This is not the best way to develop a sector as important as sports.
It is about time the MOYS and the Ministry of Finance, through the Ghana Revenue Authority, which by law is clothed to provide tax incentives to companies which invest in sports, to lead the crusade for greater partnership between the private sector and sports in a mutually-beneficial relationship.
The state cannot fund sports alone but it needs the right environment to establish the right synergies with the private sector to come on board as critical investors and partners for the accelerated and sustainable development of sports.