Agenda for Ghana sport (2021 – 2024): Matters arising (II)

BY: Magnus Rex Danquah
• Former sports minister Enoch Teye Mensah promoted the idea of setting up a sports fund

This is the second part of the article, which was published in yesterday’s edition, which looked at the evolution of the current National Sports Policy as part of building blocks for a proper take-off of sports as an emerging industry with the capacity to support the growth of Ghana’s economy.

Evolution of the Sports Act

Guess, the beauty, however, of the period was the enacting of the Sports Act, 2016 (Act 934) by Parliament within the injury time of their sittings to replace the SMCD 54 (1976), including a Retreat Session at the Accra City Hotel to consider the last few salient issues, which the Select Committee on Culture, Youth and Sports thought they added further consultations with specific individuals to bring closure to the exercise and also meet the timelines.

The Sports Act 934 states inter alia that “it is to be recognised that despite the repeal of the SMCD 54, regulations, bye-laws, notices, orders, directions, appointments or any other act lawfully made or done under the repealed enactment and in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall be considered to have been made or done under this Act and shall continue to have effect until reviewed, cancelled or terminated.”

This places a certain state of urgency on the new Minister for Youth and Sports to begin to actualise those steps leading to the passage of set regulations, whereby legislative instruments would be passed to deal with all aspects of sports administration, promotion and development to strengthen the base for proper take-off for sports as an emerging industry.

This also sets the tone for the operationalisation of the kind of future we wish to establish, administer and promote for Ghana sports, starting with a major stakeholders engagement to discuss and adopt the final draft National Sports Policy by the end of the first quarter of this year (March 2021).

Sustainable Sports Fund

The journey of our several attempts to re-engineer the sustainable financing of sports in Ghana predates the first, second and third Republican dispensations, especially as they posed real and seeming threats to Ghana’s rise to shine as the ‘Black Star of Africa and the world’ at all international sporting platforms, including the Ghana-Nigeria Friendship, Olympic and Commonwealth (formerly Empire) Games post-Independence to showcase the diversity of our collective sporting prowess in such disciplines as athletics, boxing and football.

During the tenure of the leadership of the late Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President, who was an athlete himself during his days at Achimota School, his government sought to weaponise Ghana’s participation in all international sporting events; and, therefore, no efforts were spared to provide finance for sports.

His government merged all private and public institutions or sporting associations or federations under one juggernaut, the Central Organisation of Sports. This organisation was led by the late ubiquitous Ohene Djan with direct, unfettered access to Osagyefo, the President; therefore, funding of sports in all areas, including the upgrading of facilities, formation of the Academicals, scholarships for sportsmen and women did not seem to be a problem.

However, the issues of funding, in any form, have not ceased to become the bane of our nation’s sports development paradigm since the advent of the 4th Republican dispensation, with various succeeding ministers of Youth and Sports exploring various ways to source new ways of appropriating funds for sports.

Failed attempts at establishing a fund

Mr Enoch Teye Mensah, during his tenure as minister, tried two failed attempts with the Sports Endowment Fund, which was launched at the  Golden Tulip Hotel amidst fanfare and pageantry and under the chairmanship of Dr Sam Jonah of then AngloGoldAshanti Ghana Limited; and then the Sports Endowment Fund, which account was used by the ministry for sponsorship accruals from the 11th Women’s AFCON 2018.

Unfortunately, both laudable attempts failed woefully for the simple reason of management of both initiatives: control and management, especially disbursements of the funds by the ministry as against the setting up of an independent body setup specifically to manage same like the GETFund.

 He, again, considered renaming an existing but amorphous Sportsmen’s Pension Scheme into a Sports Aid Foundation to provide for both present and retired sportsmen and women as the pension scheme was more in name than substance.

In the early days of the late Edward Osei Kwaku as the Minister for Youth and Sports, he set up the Joe Aggrey Committee — he was the Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports and former President of the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) — to provide a blueprint for Sports Development in Ghana.

Out of the work of the Committee, for which I was a Consultant, a 70-page “Plan for National Sports Development in Ghana: Framework for a New Direction for Administration, Organisation, Promotion And Funding” document was submitted to the ministry.

According to the plan, the objectives of the envisaged National Sport Fund included working towards a self-sustaining structure for fund mobilisation, backed by an Act of Parliament to support all aspects of sport development, promotion as well as provide for construction and maintenance of infrastructure.

Indeed, we have progressed from this narrative as in 2018, Mr Isaac Kwame Asiamah, the Minister for Youth and Sports, set up a committee under the chairmanship of his deputy minister, Mr Pius Enam Hadzide, to work towards the establishment of a National Sport Fund.

Thereafter, a sport business expert was engaged to provide consultancy services for a work plan for the final stages of the approval process, which included consultations with the Ministry of Finance (to clear grey areas relating to sources of public funds as contribution to the fund), the Ministry of Communications and the Gaming Commission of Ghana.

I am reliably informed that the initial Cabinet approval has been secured with a pledge of GH¢5 million as seed money for the landmark establishment of a sustainable national sports fund for Ghana sports.

What is an issue now, which delayed the formal launch last year before the 2020 General Election, is the age-long management structure paradox – independent and sustainable as the GETFund or tied to the apron strings of the Ministry of Youth and Sports as the Road Fund without the avenues for sustainable revenue generation.

 The second option should not be acceptable for the ministry. It will also see it as a supplementary source of income for various activities, most times unplanned and unbudgeted for.

If the lessons of the failures of the Sports Endowment Fund and the Sports Development Fund of the same ministry should guide anybody for the way forward, then I would definitely recommend a Legislative Instrument or an Act, which will give the fund all the independence it will require to succeed.

It is imperative that this exercise is completed by the end of the first quarter of the year (March 2021).

The writer is a Land Economist, SportBusiness Consultant, Bid Architect & Manager for CAN 2008 and 13th African Games Ghana 2023