By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK
The Black Stars coach, Mr Kwasi Appiah was sacked by the Ghana Football Association (GFA) on Thursday September 11, 2014 for reason/s of bad faith. However, a critical review of news reports from the Ghanaian media suggests that, there is more to it than meets the eye. In other words, the GFA is not being honest with the nation and may have breached Kwasi Appiah’s contract, dismissed him unfairly and discriminated against him on racial grounds (colour, ethnic or national origins, nationality including citizenship and race). The purpose of this article is to analyse whether GFA is being honest with Ghanaians and whether Kwasi Appiah has been treated unfairly. Let me emphasise that the article is not about whether Kwasi Appiah was a good or bad coach, neither is it about whether he deserves to be sacked or not. Rather, it’s about honesty, due process and fairness.
For easy reference below are some of the media reports to support my claim that GFA might have breached Kwasi Appiah’s contract, dismissed him unfairly and violated his constitutional right not to be discriminated under Ghana’s 1992 Constitution.
“Milovan Rajevac arrives in Ghana this week to conclude his contractual details to become the technical adviser to Black Stars coach, Kwesi Appiah. Information pieced together by GNA Sports indicates that the Serbian would first meet the three-member search party to agree on the terms of his contract before joining the technical staff of the Black Stars”. (see, “Milo arrives to conclude contract”, Ghanweb, September 8, 2014).
“Ghana FA officials are planning to sack coach Kwesi Appiah by tomorrow if the Black Stars fail to beat Togo in their 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Lome, according to a report by local radio station. According to the report by Citi FM, the Ghanaian will be booted out if the Black Stars fail to subdue the Hawks in their Group G match to be played in Lome. The radio station claims that they have spoken with officials of the GFA who say they are bent on sacking Appiah whose future has been hanging in a balance since the World Cup. Monday night saw the touchdown of the hugely popular Milovan Rajevac, who led the team to its highest international football achievement in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup. The presence of Milovan has the backing of some key GFA officials who were looking to appoint him as the technical adviser but could quickly be transmuted into the permanent coach if things fall apart in Lome (see “Ghana to sack Black Stars coach after Togo match”, Ghanaweb, September 9, 2014).
“Black Stars coach Kwasi Appiah has been relieved of his position as head coach of the senior national team. The decision was reached today at a board meeting of the GFA. Serbian trainer Milovan Rajevac will replace him as head coach. Mr Appiah is being accused of bad faith after he granted a radio interview in which he said that he had not asked for a technical assistant, contradicting the position of the GFA. Sources close to the GFA say the condition under which coach Milovan accepted to come to Ghana was that he is made the substantive coach. He refused to be technical assistant to Kwasi Appiah, the source said (see, “Coach Kwasi Appiah Sacked”, Ghanaweb, September 11, 2014).
The GFA Spokesperson, Mr Ibrahim Saani Daara confirmed on the Joy FM Newsfile programme on Saturday September 13, 2014 that Mr Milovan Rajevac did not come to Ghana for the purpose of the Technical Adviser. Asked by the Moderator of the programme, Mr Samson Lardi Ayenini to confirm if Milovan Rajevac has been appointed coach of the Black Stars and if so why was the position not advertised and open to all qualified coaches, his response was that, the position will be advertised and applicants given one week to submit their applications. I am not sure if Mr Ibrahim Saani Daari is being economical with the truth with his response.
From the above, particularly, the last two sentences attributed to a source close to GFA in the dismissal report of September 11, 2014 are true that Milovan Rajevac did not come to Ghana for the Technical Adviser role but to discuss the appointment of Black Stars coach, then it appears that the decision to sack Kwesi Appiah was taken by GFA before Milovan left his country to travel to Ghana and prior to Kwesi Appiah saying that he had not asked for a Technical Adviser (the reason for his dismissal - bad faith).
This above analysis is even stronger when the warning of Kwasi Appiah’s dismissal if the Black Stars lost the match against Togo. Since the Black Stars actually won the match by 3 goals to 2, the GFA only relied on a minor mistake on the part of Kwasi Appiah as an excuse to sack him and cover up their earlier plan hatched to appoint Milovan coach whilst Kwesi Appiah was still in post and given qualified assurance that his job was safe.
Whilst, I accept that the above behaviour by GFA and the disgusting treatment meted out to Kwasi Appiah is not uncommon in football management, whenever such poor management decisions and coaches are treated badly, the coaches concerned have been paid off handsomely and I see no reason why Kwasi Appiah should be treated differently by GFA.
Moreover, if it is true that the decision to dismiss Kwasi Appiah was taken before he made the contradictory statement on the appointment of a Technical Adviser and prior to Milovan left his country for Ghana, then GFA breached Kwasi Appiah’s contract. If the contract was breached, then he was also unfairly dismissed. I also believe that Kwasi Appiah’s contradiction was a minor case that he should have been given the opportunity to defend his action prior to any sanction action against him by the GFA. If that was not done, then the failure to give him the right to be heard also strengthened his case for unfair dismissal. Finally, for GFA knowingly agreeing to appoint Milovan coach in advance whilst informing Kwasi Appiah that his job was safe if he won the Togo match, acted in bad faith which constitutes breach of trust by an employer.
I am of strong opinion that GFA has discriminated against Kwasi Appiah on the basis of his race. He has been treated less favourable because he is black and a Ghanaian. A white and non-Ghanaian coach would have been treated more favourably by GFA. For example, Kwasi Appiah was paid far lower salary than white European coaches and I am confident Milovan or whoever would be appointed the next Black Stars coach would be paid higher than Kwasi Appiah. I am not suggesting that, an expatriate should not be paid higher but the basic salary for both local and foreign coaches should commensurate whilst the foreign coaches are given more in terms of allowances such as housing and other benefits for being away from their home country. In the case of Kwasi Appiah his basic salary was far below those of the foreign coaches and that constitutes racial discrimination.
As a Black man of Ghanaian origin, residing in the UK where not only have I witnessed but also fought against racial discrimination, it breaks my heart to see GFA treat Europeans and non-Ghanaians better than a Ghanaian on the basis of nationality. As one-time Director of a Race Equality NGO in the UK, I prosecuted employers for unlawfully discriminating against Black and Minority Ethnic employees and job applicants, the same discriminatory treatment GFA has subjected Kwasi Appiah to. Though, UK has strong and enforceable anti-discrimination legislation (the Equality Act 2010), Ghana’s 1992 Constitution also prohibits any form of discrimination, including race. GFA by treating Kwasi Appiah less favourably than white coach has racially discriminated against Kwasi Appiah and therefore breached his constitutional rights not to be discriminated.
For the above reasons, Kwasi Appaiah should not accept the three months salary being offered to him by GFA in lieu of notice because his contract was breached by GFA, making his dismissal unfair. When employment contracts are breached by any of the parties concerned, the terms and conditions are no longer enforceable or do not apply. Therefore any severance package is negotiated without reference to the breached terms or contested through the court. For the above reasons, I strongly urged Kwasi Appiah to demand one year salary each for breach of contract and unfair dismissal. Another six months pay each for loss of future earnings and breach of constitutional rights/discrimination. Loss of future earnings because had Kwasi Appiah served his full two years contract, the likelihood of a foreign country or club signing him as coach would have been higher than now. Having been sacked, it is highly unlikely that he would get even a local team to sign him as a coach.
In conclusion, Kwasi Appiah should not accept GFA’s offer of three months pay in lieu of notice because GFA breached his contract, unfairly dismissing him and therefore the terms of the contract are no longer applicable. GFA behaviour also amounts to breach of trust and last but not the least, Kwasi Appiah’s constitutional rights breached by GFA. For these reasons the minimum Kwasi Appiah should accept as reasonable compensation must be three years salary for breach of contract, unfair dismissal, breach of trust and constitutional rights. GFA should not be allowed to treat a Ghanaian citizen with contempt and get away with it.
I wish him the best with his negotiations.
Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK