Sports Features of 2014-01-22

Comment: Ghanaian clubs must pay realistic wages!

Last week, sports website allsports.com.gh broke the story that clubs in the Nigerian Premier League had agreed to pay players a minimum monthly salary of $900. Indeed the clubs in the NPL had also agreed to abolish the payment of signing on fees.

One part of the story that also caught my eyes is the need for each club to have a bank guarantee of at least 100 million Naira ($624,700) in order to secure eligibility to take part in the Nigerian Premier League. What is the situation on the ground in Ghana? Sadly it is a terrible situation as far as finances are concerned.

Last week I wrote an article in which I stated that Ghana football has to move with the times. Unfortunately, due to a lack of effort in enforcing certain regulations by the Ghana Football Association, most clubs in the Ghana Premier League are badly run and as a result, instead of regarding sponsorship money as supplementary income, the sponsorship money is regarded as the be all and end all of funding annual budgets by such clubs.

As a result, little or no effort is made by such clubs to secure sponsorships on their own and at the moment, some clubs are feeling it big time. Thanks to the philanthropic works of Emmanuel Kyeremeh, Berekum Chelsea rose to the top in no time; winning the Ghana Premier League two years after winning promotion to the top flight.

Kyeremeh singlehandedly bankrolled the club through its CAF Champions League campaign and now that he is no longer there, the club is in very real danger of collapse. Currently the Berekum club lies in the drop zone and things do not look good at all.

Elsewhere, clubs are only surviving on the largesse of individuals and perhaps such clubs should organize regular all-night services with prayer and fasting to ensure that such individuals remain successful in their various private businesses so that the money continues to flow.

Professionalism has been thrown out of the window, people with the gift of the gab, rather than professionals are employed by the clubs to run the marketing and communications department and that is why very poor wages are paid to players in the top flight. To put it bluntly, the funding is simply not there.

For example, an Accra-based club in the top flight pays some of its players GHC30 ($13) a month. Yes, you read that correctly; $13 a month. Some other clubs even struggle to pay their players monthly salaries of GHC 500 ($220). This is often due to what I will describe as an archaic way of paying players in this country.

These days, it is not unusual to find a club agreeing to pay a player a signing on fee of GHC 50,000, after which the player has to be content with a salary of GHC 400 a month, for example. In a lot of cases, most clubs fail to pay the full signing on fee to the players.

A few months back I ran into some players at the GFA who had come there to secure statuses as free players and some of them told me that they were owed thousands of cedis in signing on fees. In short, clubs are often unable to pay the signing on fees agreed.

A case in point is Kofi Nti Boakye. The striker was promised a signing on fee of GHC 50000 by Asante Kotoko, but the club was only able to pay him half the amount. As a result, Nti Boakye refused to sign a contract extension and he run down the contract. He eventually landed a lucrative contract in Libya and as a free agent he netted $900,000 for himself.

This was one of the reasons why Hearts of Oak had to give Mahatma a sum of GHC 30000 to extend his contract, after which the striker was sold to Sogndal in Norway for a healthy profit, because Otoo would have become a free agent with nothing coming to the club.

To wit, in my opinion, the payment of such signing on fees have become outmoded and archaic and the sooner the clubs ditched that method of paying the players the better. It would be far better to start paying players monthly salaries in the region of GHC 2000 – 3000 and that could also keep the players here and stem the exodus of players.

After all, that is their profession. Because of the challenges enumerated above, a player would prefer to travel to Vietnam because he can earn a monthly salary of $5000 and seriously I doubt that the V League is that high up in terms of playing standards as compared to the Ghana Premier League.

The unfortunate thing is that the GFA has not been able to accurately value the Ghana Premier League and as a result, not much money comes in in terms of media rights revenue for instance. All that implies is that the clubs need to start building proper structures from within so that they can attract sponsorship.

Clubs that are finding it difficult to survive financially should pull resources together and merge, and that is one way of easing the financial nightmare engulfing such clubs. Can the Premier League Board even enforce a rule that would require every club to provide a bank guarantee of say $200,000? I guess not and that is why Ghana football is where it is at the moment.

I started a one-man campaign late last year and I shall continue regardless of whatever people will say. Clubs must stop paying bribes to referees, pure and simple!

How can a club struggling to pay its players find a minimum of GHC 5000 to pay a referee to influence the outcome of a single match? Does it make any sense at all? Some clubs pay a minimum of GHC30000 a season towards such nefarious activities and yet owe their players arrears in salaries and winning bonuses.

Unless the clubs come together and declare war on referee bribery, most clubs would eventually head towards financial meltdown and collapse.

I was told that these days, some top club officials mortgage their properties in a bid to raise money to keep a club afloat. Why then would such clubs pay a dime to referees? I just do not get it!

It is time for the clubs to come together and abolish the payment of signing on fees, so that their players can be paid well. Also, it will be in the interest of clubs to stop paying bribes and inducements to the knights of the whistle and that would also free up some cash for the players.