Sports Features of Tue, 18 May 201063

Low Stadium Attendance in Ghana because of European Leagues

Gone are the days when Ghana football fans used to rush to the Stadium to watch Ghanaian Premier League games. I remember those days when football fans showed up at the Stadium very early in the morning to stand in long lines to purchase tickets for a game that will kick off 8 hours later. Tickets were always hard to come by for football games in Ghana.

I also remember the days when Ghanaian Football fans were willing to pay extra money by purchasing their tickets on the black market to enable them watch a Ghanaian Premier League game at the stadium. Fixtures between Hearts of Oak and Kotoko especially attracted very huge crowds to the stadium in the past. Unfortunately that is not the case in Ghana anymore.

I believe strongly that attendance to Ghanaian Premier League games in the past was high because only a hand full of Ghanaians had access to foreign sports channels. The local television networks did not show foreign league games. In fact the only television station in Ghana was the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC).

The existence of numerous private Television Companies in Ghana is a very good thing and has played a vital role in giving Ghanaian football fans access to the foreign leagues. But to some extent, have had a negative impact on the Ghana Premier League. Many Ghanaians prefer watching the English Barclays Premier League game on Television than to go to the stadium to watch a game between say, Hearts of Oak and Kotoko. Interest in the local league has fallen drastically. Most of the local league clubs play their games with just a hand full of football fans in the stands. It is obvious that the Ghanaian Premier League cannot survive if attendance continues to decline at such a drastic rate. Interest in the local Ghanaian league is still there but fans will simply prefer watching an European League game on television than to watch a local league game at the stadium. I am not sure how the local clubs manage to survive the whole football season with such a low attendance.

There have been lots of stories about referees not being paid on time in Ghana lately. As we all know, failure to pay referees in Ghana will lead to bad officiating due to bribery, which will eventually affect the image of Ghana football. This is an indication that the local Premier League is gradually going down the drain. According to the Barclays Premier League http://www.premierleague.com/page/Statistics/ the average attendance to a Manchester United game at England is 74,864 and that of a small club such as Wigan is 17,998.

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I do not expect attendance to Ghanaians league games to exceed that of the English leagues, but big Ghanaian clubs such as Hearts of Oak and Kotoko do not attract that much football fans to the stadium as they used to do in the past. The declining attendance to local Ghanaian league games can be reversed by simply doing what the authorities of the United States Major League Soccer did. Authorities of the U.S. Major League in their attempt to promote interest in football and to increase attendance ensured that their Soccer season began around the end of the European League season. The current American Soccer season began in March 2010 and will end around November 2010. This will lead to an increase in attendance to the American Major League Soccer games because the European leagues will end by mid May 2010. The Ghanaian Premier League usually begins around the same time as the European Leagues. The 2009/2010 League in England began in August 2009 and that of Ghana began in October 2009. I am a big believer of Ghana not being dependent on other countries and doing things its own way, but it has become very clear that the interest in the European football league by Ghanaians is so high that the Ghana Professional League Board have no option than to coordinate with other African league boards and CAF to adjust the start dates for all African Leagues to save the local league clubs. I have no doubt that when the start date of the various leagues in Africa are scheduled around the end of the European league season, many Ghanaians and for that matter Africans will go to the stadium to watch local league games because, there will be no European league to watch on television. The world cup is played every four years; the local Ghanaian league schedule can also be adjusted to accommodate the world cup schedule if necessary. Changing of the start date of the Ghanaian Premier League will also give local Ghanaian coaches and scouts the opportunity to watch our league and possibly recruit high quality local players for our national teams and also give our quality local players the opportunity to make money by playing for higher wages at Europe. Apart from changing the start date of the Ghanaian league, I also believe that the decline in attendance is partly a marketing problem. The authorities of the Ghanaian Professional League Board must hire a very good marketing team to promote our local football league.

Ghana and for that matter Africa cannot afford to abandon its local football leagues. The goal of an African nation winning the world cup in the near future may not be achieved if we fail to support our local football leagues. As we all know, most of the African stars playing for European clubs were discovered from the local leagues, there is therefore the need to manage the source of quality player supply to our national teams and big European football clubs properly. The next English Barclays Premier League season is scheduled to begin in August 2010. The Ghana Professional League Board may not be able to change the start date of the Ghana Premier League by August 2010, but should consider changing the start date by August 2011. God bless Ghana Football.

BY: Nick Amuna

Email: nicamuna@yahoo.com U.S.A.

Source: Amuna, Nick

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