Sports Features of Mon, 17 Jul 20173

Giving clubs bus subsidies is much ado about nothing

As characteristic of Ghanaians, we always try to go to the aid of troubled persons, especially when it is tragic and publicly noted. It is therefore not astonishing to see many pouring in their messages of condolences to Kotoko for the loss of the deputy equipment officer, Kofi Asare, as well as wishing the players all the best and a speedy recovery.

In the quest to wipe the tears of the Porcupine Warriors, the Sports Minister is making a big fuss over a trifle - much ado about nothing, claiming the government will be putting measures in place to give clubs bus subsidies. That isn’t a bad idea, but it is a hypocritical attempt of demonstrating ignorance, to say the least.

First of all, who told the Minister that is what we need as a country to develop football – a sport that is capable of eradicating poverty and reducing unemployment drastically? Who at all mooted that idea? I need to know the person; else I’ll not be wrong to conclude that the Minister is ignorant about football governance and is only playing political gimmickry – if it is his own initiative. If it is the government’s too, then they better abort it because it is dead on arrival.

After Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as president of Ghana and Ohene Gyan as arguably the best sports administrator we have had as a country, what has been the contribution of successive governments towards football development?

We have had enough of the comedy of politicians and Hon. Isaac Asiamah must not attempt to score political points with the current tragic situation of Kotoko.

How many stadia or sporting infrastructure can we find in our districts which the government can boldly chest out as being their achievement? Our various districts are crying for football pitches to develop the game at that level but there is no sign of hope and all of a sudden the Sports Minister pops up and wants to give bus subsidy. Wrong move!

I watched the Ghana Premier League clash between Inter Allies and Asante Kotoko at the El Wak Stadium on Wednesday. I was saddened with the state of the pitch – very poor and not good for association football. Ball control was poor, players struggled to swing passes together and the quality of play waned. The stadium was full, but spectators left disappointed simply because they did not enjoy the game – they were not given their money’s worth. Bolga All Stars are playing their home games at Tamale because of poor football infrastructure in Bolga. What is government doing about that? Then out of the blue, a Sports Minister pops up and wants to fight for bus subsidy for clubs. How sad?

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Now take your time and look at this; all the 16 Premier League clubs and the 48 Division One Clubs travel by road to play their matches. The risks of such travels need not to be told. We are in a country where the transport sector is crazily bad, road networks are overly poor with no hope of reducing road accidents. Yet, Sports Minister wants to grant bus subsidies instead of pressing on government to improve our transport system.

According to a report by pulse.com.gh, the Director of Communication at the Road Safety Management Services Limited, Roland Walker disclosed earlier this year that the rate at which Ghana is recording motor accidents is alarming.

“According to him, within the first three months of 2017, Ghana has recorded over 2000 road accidents, a startling statistic,” pulse.com reported.

Now let me give you the football angle.

Last season, more than five football clubs including Kpando Heart of Lions, New Edubiase United and Berekum Chelsea were involved in serious accidents which have been culminated by the tragic incident of Kotoko this year.

Even though I admit that the qualities of the buses of most of the clubs are questionable, the nature of some of our roads are equally dubious.

I support the argument that if the Accra-Kumasi road had been raised to international standards with proper lighting systems, the probability of Kotoko getting involved in the accident would have been very little.

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A major road like the Kumasi-Accra road should be fully lighted to increase visibility. That is what government must be thinking of doing and not granting bus subsidies. In any case, if the subsidies are granted and the buses are bought, which roads will they use?

One major thing that is holding back the development of football in this country is lack of funding. Clubs have a tough financial battle to win to sustain themselves in either the Premier League or the Division One League every year. Yet the little they make from gate proceeds are given back to government as VAT.

Clubs pay 17.5% of the total amount they make from their meagre grate proceeds as VAT. That is what government must scrape off.

Kumasi Asante Kotoko and BYF Academy had GHC606 each from the gate during their round of 64 MTN FA Cup competition this year. Meanwhile, the VAT percentage was almost a double of what each club had. Clubs are crying for government to scrape off that 17.5% VAT on their gate proceeds and not to subsidize buses for them.

These are the practicalities government must be thinking of handling and not subsidizing buses.

Somebody must please tell the whispering bird to whisper into the ears of Hon. Isaac Asiamah to swiftly crucify the idea of subsidizing buses for clubs and take calculated steps to revive the rail sector and to improve our road transport system to make transportation easier, to help build infrastructure for football development, mitigate import taxes on football equipment and to scrape off VAT from gate proceeds.

This is what football needs and not bus subsidies.

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