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An intellectual take on the issue of low attendance during Ghana Premier League games

Hearts Of Oak Fans .jpeg File photo of a section of Accra Hearts of Oak Fans

Thu, 24 Aug 2023 Source: Sheikh Tophic Sienu

Barely a month away from today, the 2023/24 Ghana Premier League (GPL) season will start and already, clubs are strenuously preparing for what promises to be a very competitive season.

I am, however, surprised that the conversation on spectatoring has suddenly diffused into thin air, and from experience, it will show its ugly head again getting to the end of the season.

Last season, it became a fist-up topic with many pointing accusing fingers at the Ghana Football Association for the poor attendance at some match venues.

Many were up in arms with the Ghana FA President Kurt Edwin Simeon Okraku for openly admonishing clubs, especially the two giants – Accra Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko – to ensure their fans are always filling the stands during their games. However, I was fully in support of the president’s position and believe the two giants have a lot to do when it comes to attendance of Ghana Premier League games.

The conversation on attendance must be looked at wholistically and not be limited to just blaming the association for the poor show at match venues. Of course, since they are the mother body of football in the country, they can’t escape blame but majority of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the clubs.

Perhaps, for the first time in the history of Ghana football, we need an academic analysis of the situation and proffer solutions to the unending canker of poor attendance at GPL games.

The Ghana FA has always been the easy targets so all will just run to their door to start knocking but the real causes of the situation aren’t far-fetched.

As a religious follower of the GPL and someone who has covered the local league for a decade and a half, I can unequivocally say that there are indicators to how the stands swell up on match days.

Do you recall the Kenichi Yatsuhashi era in 2015, that came along with big names like Mustapha Essuman, Eric Bekoe, Sadick Adams, Kwasi Donsu, Yahaya Mohammed, Tetteh Nortey, etc in the league? Well, those were/are some of the indicators.

The poor numbers in the stands is a problem that can be solved scientifically and we, the media, have a key role to play in there.

First, we need to find the cause. We can only solve the problem when we find the cause. It must however be noted that the causes of poor stadium attendance is club-based with a few universal ones.

Accra Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko share similar causes because they are the two most celebrated clubs in the country. In my 15 years’ coverage of the Ghana Premier League and my association with local and international football, I have noted the following as the key causes of poor attendance at the games of these two clubs.

Management decisions


Big-name players

Strategic planning

Management decisions

Decisions by the managements of these two clubs, especially on player recruitment, hiring and firing of coaches and the general administration of the club end up discouraging their fans from patronising their games.

Most of the fans feel disrespected when their managements ignore their concerns. They then retreat and withdraw from attending their games in protest.

Hearts of Oak have suffered this challenge from sacking David Duncan in 2013 to Kenichi Yatsuhashi in 2016 to Samuel Boadu in 2022. Similarly, Asante Kotoko have suffered same.

In just 3 years, Asante Kotoko sacked three substantive coaches: Maxwell Konadu, Mariano Barreto and Prosper Narteh Ogum. These decisions swing the performance of the clubs and discourage the fans from patronising the games.

It is, therefore, significant for these two clubs to learn the trade of consistency in their technical direction, especially when the coaches are the fans’ favourite. A study conducted by EventBrite in 2022 affirms this position.


The performance of every club has the potential of attracting even non-traditional fans to patronise their games. Quality football that is also entertaining attracts everyone, especially when the club is pregnant with some top players. Kotoko and Hearts have always filled their stands when their performance is top notch.

A case in hand is when Hearts of Oak won the league in the 202/21 season. The team played well, showed resilience on the field and blew off their opponents with ease on their way to the title. Same thing applied to Kotoko when they won the league in the 2021/22 season.

Their fans were always happy to go to the stadium to watch and enjoy their games. There was a sharp decline in spectatoring during their games in the seasons that followed. Reasons? Poor display and lack of quality players.

A study by Mizruchi in 1985 attempts to determine the cause of the “Home Advantage” of clubs showed how fans influence the performance of their clubs positively. This was furthered by Jack Willoughby in 2014 who assessed the effect of home fans on their teams. His study revealed that even though home fans play a vital role of motivating their teams, the performance of the teams on the other hand plays a significant role in encouraging attendance.

Big-Name Players

For clubs like Hearts and Kotoko, who to watch is a key question always asked by the fans. Cast in the mould of Real Madrid, Manchester United or Chelsea, Galacticos play a vital role in luring fans to their games as the two most glamorous clubs in the country, their fans have seen top players before and always wish to see better.

The fans are always attracted by the who they are in to watch. A season ago when Asante Kotoko had Frank Mbella, Fabio Gama, Mudasiru Salifu, Abdul Ganiu and a few others, their home venue – Baba Yara – was always pregnant with numbers but the reverse was true when these players were transferred and were replaced by unknown players from lower tier clubs.

Player fame and quality has always proved a key factor in luring fans to match venues, and to a large extent, even leagues. The Saudi Pro League is now the talk of town because of the influx of big-name players. Cristiano Ronaldo was used as the bait and all other players joined.

Today, over 40 countries have secured the broadcast rights of the league. Kotoko and Hearts can relive their past glory if they revert to securing the signatures of the top players in the Ghana league and beyond and filling the stadium will be easier.

Strategic Planning

Hearts and Kotoko are the pioneers of organized fan groups in the country. Though others like AshGold (now defunct), Medeama, King Faisal, King Faisal etc are currently joining, the two remain the only clubs with the largest organised fan groups.

Hearts of Oak supporters’ groups are known as Chapters and Kotoko have Circles. With these fan groups, it should not be difficult for the two top clubs to fill their stadia with numbers with good strategy. What has been their plan in increasing revenue on match days?

With the right strategy, the two clubs will know how much they must raise from the gates on match days and what operational plan to adopt to achieve their targets. Ticketing is one of the basic most important ways of raising revenue for clubs. So, with their organised fan base, Kotoko and Hearts should be the last to complain about poor attendance.

The above, are particularly related to Hearts and Kotoko but there are general causes that affect stadium attendance, not only in Ghana but all over the world.

Sharing The Football Space

We are sharing the football viewing space with other leagues in the world so obviously, attendance will reduce. This was not the case some time ago. Leagues all over the world are no more enjoying monopoly of fans because of television coverage, the internet and social media.

There must be a national agenda to control the free flow of foreign football in this country and reduce the easy access to foreign football. Several internet apps are available for every Tom, Dick and Harry to watch football games free. This will obviously affect our stadium attendance.

We don’t need a rocket scientist to tell us this. We can, however, tweak the kick-off times of our games just like Spain, Germany and other leagues have done to avoid clashing with the English Premier League.

The State of The Economy

The economic conditions of the country has a direct impact on our football. Most of the people who will be trooping to the stadium to watch matches have a lot to handle in terms of bills.

Food, accommodation, clothes, education, transportation, health have become so expensive that the fight is for SURVIVAL and not for PLEASURE. So until the economy of the country is back on its feet, we have to manage.

Football, to the fan, is for entertainment. But how do you entertain yourself when you are hungry or sick? You entertain yourself either when you have bills to take care of.

These are facts and realities that must be dealt with nationalistically if indeed we, as a country, want to deal with the poor attendance head-on.

Media Reportage on The League

A large section of the media will choose to report and emphasize on a fan who threw a stone on the pitch than a player who scored a hat trick in a game. We have to revise our reporting strategies. Elsewhere, we see them deliberately censoring bad images from their game and giving us only the good and attractive ones. We can do same. It must not always be about who speaks against the GFA. Colleagues must not only be interested in attacking the GFA always to be hailed but must practice what the profession dictates; that’s social responsibility.

Stadium Attendance vs Watching Games on TV

It’s now expensive to attend games in Ghana than to watch on television. When you decide to go to the stadium, you must pay for your transportation to and from the stadium, budget for food, buy ticket and have something extra for contingency.

All these would not be a problem if one is to watch the game on tv since games are now on television, always. This has limited the interest of people going to the stadiums to watch games.

Clubs must look at maximizing profit from their TV rights since most of the fans will watch their games on tv instead of the stadiums. Previously, there were no games on tv as we have today so fans had no options. That’s not so today.

Why must Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak agree to share TV Rights sponsorship package equally? This, in my opinion, isn’t right. TV rights sponsorship must be shared according to the number of games televised.

Kotoko and Hearts have all their games broadcast live in the season with others having about 5 or 6 games on TV. Why must their packages be the same?

Discomfort and Insecurity

Insecurity and our stadium architecture are key to this current canker of poor attendance. We have match venues that aren’t security friendly. Even after the sad and horrible May 9th experience, despite all that we saw, police still go to stadium with guns and tear gas.

Who wants to go to the stadium and die? A Kotoko fan lost his eye in 2020 as a victim of a police gunshots after their game with Berekum Chelsea in Kumasi. You think people will be interested in going to the stadium when the police are dressed like UN peacekeepers going to stop wars in Iraq?

No way! When you drive your own vehicle to the stadium, you don’t have peace of mind to watch games because buglers will break your windows to still your belongings.

When you are lucky and no one steals from your car, you have 90 minutes more to wait in traffic to get home. All these are contributors to the declining numbers in our stadiums. We need a systemic revolution.

When going to the stadium, you must pray nature does not invite you. When it does, you have no place of convenience to ease yourself and if there are any, they are as bad as none.

Places of convenience at the Baba Yara and Accra Sports Stadiums are as bad as the word and not family friendly. Such an environment will obviously not attract people.

The state must be ready to critically handle matters of security and comfort at these facilities if indeed we are committed to dealing with the topic of poor attendance.

By: Sheikh Tophic Sienu, Editor, TV Soccer Pundit

Columnist: Sheikh Tophic Sienu
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