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Sports Features Sat, 13 Dec 2014

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Why Club licensing in Ghana football needs to start now!

This is an issue that has more often than not reared its head over the last few years.

The Ghana Football Association says it is following a timeline to ensure that in time, clubs will be required to own operational secretariats and be self sufficient enough not to totally depend on sponsorship monies.

Player salaries are supposed to be at an acceptable level, in order to ensure some level of retention of talent in the local league.

Let me start with something that former GFA Executive Committee member Lee Yankey once told me, some years ago.

He said that owners of certain clubs need to be taken care of, rather than caring for others and years down the line, he was 100% right.

Too many clubs now just exist on the largesse of individuals, who more often than not, sell their properties and even wreck their businesses just to keep the clubs going.

Salaries are at an all time low, with certain clubs paying players a salary of GHC50 ($15) a month.

This is against the backdrop that clubs should be able to pay players acceptable salary levels and should be able to provide bank guarantees of an acceptable balance, before being allowed to operate as football clubs.

Some have argued that we cannot compare ourselves to Nigeria, but let us put the facts into perspective.

Nigerian clubs in the top flight are expected to provide bank guarantees on bank balances in the region of $900,000 or more.

In addition, the payment of signing on fees for players has been outlawed.

In Ghana, what do we see? Clubs promise players huge signing on fees ranging between GHC50,000 and GH100,000 ($15,000 - $30,000) over the length of a player’s contract and more than 60% of the time, players don’t get their full monies paid.

I cannot begin to tell you the many disagreements that occur between players and clubs and there have been a number of occasions where I have run into players at the GFA, attending Player Status Committee hearings, either in a bid to retrieve their money, or to free themselves of contracts signed so they receive what is described in these parts as ‘floating status’.

In short, clubs promise players what they cannot deliver on and in the end, the exodus of talent from the local league will only worsen.

Is it not curious that players who win the Most Valuable Player award season after season leave the shores of this nation and end up joining clubs in leagues that are comparatively not very competitive?

In fact in seven years, the only nominee for such an award that has gone on to bigger things is Kwadwo Asamoah, who finished second to Kweku Essien in 2007.

Asamoah is now playing for Juventus whilst Essien has slipped into oblivion.

Fast forward seven years and Augustine Okrah, after a failed spell in Sweden, will now ply his trade in the heights of the Sudanese league. Yes, that is how far our best talent in the local leagues would go.

The fact is that the clubs spend so much money camping players, feeding them and paying them, and the only expectation they have of defraying costs, is when there are home games against Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko, which will net them some reasonable revenue in terms of gate proceeds, plus sponsorship monies, which most of the time is grossly inadequate anyway.

It is all because clubs are allowed to run without recourse to whether such clubs are adequately resourced to operate and if indeed the clubs as self-sustainable models.

For example, look at what is happening now. With the Premier League on suspension for legal reasons, clubs are simply spending money with no short-term expectations of getting any income and the two main sponsors, First Capital Plus Bank and Supersport are getting very nervous over the turn of events.

No official matches played means no income, either in terms of gate proceeds or sponsorship monies and to be fair, the friendly games the clubs are involved in aren’t bringing in any real money to the clubs.

Take Berekum Chelsea for example. After the club’s bankroller Emmanuel Kyeremeh left Ghana almost two years ago, the club has run into serious financial problems.

Berekum Chelsea owes the GFA over $220,000 in transfer payment portions over the sale of players like Gladson Awako, Richard Kissi Boateng, Obed Owusu and Emmanuel Clottey amongst others.

The club is now teetering on the brink and only just managed to escape relegation last term.

At the moment, the survival of the 2011 Premier League champions depends on a major influx of cash; something that does not look like happening now and I know on authority that the club’s Chief Executive, Obed Nana Kwame Nketiah is in debt to the tune of almost $300,000; loans he has taken to keep the club afloat.

If you dig deep, you would realize that many clubs are close to reaching Berekum Chelsea’s situation and to top it off, 2014 was a very bad financial year.

Hearts of Oak for example did not get any sponsors last term, whilst the sum total of Asante Kotoko’s sponsorship deals is barely enough to take care of the club’s huge wage bill.

With all this, it is clear that even as the movers and shakers of Ghana football wait with bated breaths to discover the outcome of the ongoing legal battle between the GFA and King Faisal, the inescapable fact is that a serious look needs to be taken at how clubs are set up and how professionally run they are, if at all.

The GFA has to critically examine the current situation and take a radical step.

If clubs cannot sustain themselves, then perhaps there is the need for clubs to start merging because the fact is that single club benefactors are fast becoming a dying breed, especially when there are no guarantees of covering costs or expenditure.

Paying an advance of three month’s salary to players is also a viable option, rather than having to pay huge lump sums as signing on fees, which the clubs struggle to honour in the first place.

Clubs should be able to pay monthly salaries ranging between GHC 1500 – GHC 2000 ($450 - $600) and that could go a long way towards stemming the exodus of players a little bit.

That would also help keep quality players in the Premier League just a little while longer and in so doing reawaken interest in local football once again.

As things stand now, if things are allowed to go on the way they have, then the collapse of Ghana football is not very far off. This is why any delays in implementing club licensing in Ghana could prove fatal. GFA, the ball is now firmly in your court.

Source: Christopher Opoku/footy-ghana.com

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