FEATURE: Lessons from corridors of power

Author: Ebo Kwaitoo

The decision by the Ghana Football Association (GFA) to announce the breakdown of the GH¢5.2 million StarTmes sponsorship money to Premier League clubs last week was quite commendable and remarkable.

As was clearly spelt out, Premier League clubs, the FA Cup, Division One League (DOL) clubs and women's football now know their respective shares of the television rights from year one to year five when the contract is supposed to expire. At least, that will help the clubs in their projections.

It was also clear from the narration that there was no agency fee. Had the GFA used the same approach, the confusion and distrust which characterised the commencement of this year's MTN FA Cup competition would not have arisen in the first place.

If the FA can maintain this standard as and when it secures any form of sponsorship for the various competitions, it will save it from unnecessary trouble and criticism from the media and their detractors alike. In the FA's own interest, such gestures will go a long way to deal with any suspicion and win the trust of its members and Ghanaians in general.

Transparency and accountability, as stated in president Kurt Okraku's ''Gamechanger' manifesto, can guarantee him a second term if they can be strictly adhered to in the first four years.

The fact is that suspicion, if unchecked, creates doubt in the minds of people and end up being accepted as the truth, thus raising questions about credibility. That was the canker which subtly ate deep into the fibre of Kwesi Nyantakyi's administration until it crumbled. President Kurt Okraku and his men should take a cue from that disturbing narrative.

Personally, I think it took them too long to come out with the details of the StarTimes deal. Going forward, prompt responses to contractual details will be worthwhile to avoid the unfortunate situation where some Division One League (DOL) clubs had to consider boycotting the preliminary round matches over insufficient appearance fees.

Ghana Football has come a long way to be still grappling with such petty issues which defy logic. At this point, anything that has the potential to stir controversy should be nipped in the bud immediately before it casts a slur on the reputation of Kurt and his administration.

Referees Committee
The exoneration of Wa-based Class One Referee Emmanuel Eshun by the Referees Committee of the GFA in the past week can also not pass without comment. Most significantly, it put paid to the raging debate over the eligibility of his late penalty call which secured the 2-1 victory for Asante Kotoko over their rivals, Hearts of Oak, in their Ghana Premier League Match day six clash in Accra.

The committee, after a careful study of the match, also commended Referee Eshun for his performance. I really enjoyed the committee's analysis of the game and thought it needed to be highlighted to help educate all stakeholders of Ghana Football.

In arriving at its ruling, the committee said: "Hearts quoted Law 12 of the FIFA Regulations under the sub-heading HANDLING THE BALL, and protested against Referee Eshun's decision to give Kotoko a late penalty and claimed that the decision was an error.

Hearts of Oak also complained that the referee denied them a penalty towards the end of the game, claiming the ball hit the hand of a Kotoko player in the penalty box. The Referees Committee studied the footage and concluded that referee Eshun made a correct handball call within the confines of the law."

According to the committee, the law Hearts quoted “isn't absolute and still allows the referee to make a determination when the ball comes off any part of the body or the player makes a deliberate effort to handle the ball.”

It added: "Referee Eshun informed the committee that he gave the penalty because the Hearts defender had his hand in an unnatural position above shoulder level before the ball hit his hand, which by law is deemed a foul."

"Referee Eshun also stated that the Hearts claim for a penalty was not accurate because the ball came off the thigh of the Kotoko defender.”

According to the Referees Committee, Referee Eshun interpreted the laws of the game on hand ball as he was required to do by law on both occasions.

Certainly, such a detailed explanation, backed by the Laws of the Game, will put an end to any further debate on the Super Clash and also go a long way to educate club officials, supporters and all soccer-loving Ghanaian fans alike.

Football is governed by laws, which the centre referee alone is mandated to interprete, with the help of his three assistants in every match. In that regard, all other persons are supposed to respect the referee’s decisions as final during and after a game and channel their grievances, if any, to the appropriate quarters without resorting to violence.

While commending Hearts officials and their fans for comporting themselves and ensuring that the right thing was done on that occasion (though they did not agree with the referee's late penalty call), what must be made clear here is that penalty kick(s) can be awarded by a referee at any given time during a match.

It is, therefore, incumbent on all followers of the game to learn and respect the laws and restrain themselves from any acts that can mar the beauty of the game.

Conversely, let all those Kotoko fans who threw objects and water on the field during that same match, for whatever reason, bury their heads in shame for bringing the game into disrepute. Such behaviour from the same club which was recently handed a three-match home ban for a similar offence at the Baba Yara Stadium, which resulted in a Kotoko fan losing one eye, can no longer be countenanced.

As the two leading clubs in the country, Hearts and Kotoko are expected to be good examples for the other clubs on all fronts and at all times. Perhaps, they can use the upcoming historic Independence Cup match in London on March 7 to underscore the change of direction.

I encourage the Referees Committee to continue with their good job, which has also led to the four-match ban of Referee Hamid Sessay for his abysmal performance in the Great Olympics versus WAFA match in Accra, coupled with the exoneration of FIFA Referee Latif Adaari and Emmanuel Tampuri in the games involving Hearts and Ashantigold and Ashantigold versus Liberty Professionals, respectively.

My only worry, however, is that the common complaint by clubs against referees seems to centre on penalty decisions. Meanwhile, referees take many other vital decisions that can determine the outcome of matches other than penalty calls during the 90 minutes of play.

Let's keep learning!