Mahama Ayariga Should Not Lead Ghana Football Into Temptation

ON TUESDAY, July 1, on the 54th anniversary of Ghana’s Republic, I wrote a lengthy article in this paper under the caption, MAHAMA AYARIGA IS THE WRONG MAN FOR SPORTS.

One of the reasons I assigned for my failure to support the choice of the Member of Parliament for Bawku Central to direct the portfolio responsible for sports promotion in this land of our birth, was that truth, in my opinion, has never been a good ally in the performance of the official duties of the man who has just been given charge of developing sports in this country. It is my humble submission that Mr. Ayariga is more at home with propaganda to paper the cracks of the misadventure of the current governance process, than perfecting the art of persuasion, which is the preferred option in the very tactful art of promoting sports at the Centre of the Earth.

I am inclined to hold that the new Minister of Youth and Sports is also naïve about the import of how rules and regulations are enforced in his new area of operation. On Monday, I heard the new Youth and Sports Minister stressing on air that until the Federation of International Football Associations so directs, he was not going to vary his options in the setting up of the Presidential Commission to investigate the performance of the Black Stars in Brazil 2014.

Unfortunately for this country and its Minister of Sports, FIFA does not communicate its opinions on decisions taken by politicians in matters pertaining to the promotion of football. The football governing body’s main interest is to find out whether or not individual football associations were complying with its Statutes. If Football House in Zurich is convinced that there is an interference in the administration of football in any country from a third source, particularly from politicians, it goes ahead and applies the law. It is as simple as that.

In case the Minister of Sports is unaware, in nine out of ten cases of political interference in football, the full sanctions of suspension from the activities of FIFA are applied. In its own wisdom, FIFA may warn the particular nation before the application of suspension is applied. It does not mean that FIFA is obliged to issue any warning though.

Setting up a Presidential Commission by the President of Ghana to investigate some aspects of Ghana’s participation in Brazil though, may not infringe FIFA rules, provided the commission does not venture into the organisation of the game, or the role of the Ghana Football Association in preparing the national team technically.

For instance, the state of Ghana may investigate the circumstances leading to the choice of supporters sent to Brazil, 200 of whom have decided to seek asylum, citing religious persecution in a country where all people have the freedom to worship in any manner they deem fit.

The commission could be asked to investigate whether or not those sent to Brazil at public expense were those originally chosen to make the trip, and whether or not some people were charged monies to make the final list, while the original travelers were dropped, which was the experience in South Africa 2010.

There could be an enquiry to establish what happened to the prize money of US$14 million won by the Black Stars in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and whether or not the failure to advance any part of that money to the Ghana Football Association for football development, had any bearing on the mutiny by the players in Brazil, forcing the President to authorize the disgraceful episode of flying in physical cash to the players.

I dare state that the failure of the government of the National Democratic Congress to give, at least part, of the 2010 prize money to the GFA for football development is at the heart of the dismal failure of the team in Brazil. I further state without any equivocation that at least two of the terms of reference handed over to the Presidential Commission directly infringe on FIFA Statutes, which frowns on political interference in matters of football administration. The offending clauses are:

(a) To enquire into matters relating to Ghana Black Stars team’s preparation for the tournament, and possible lapses therein, which might have caused their early exit from the tournament.

(b) To enquire into matters relating to the management of the Ghana Black Stars team, and events in their camp during the tournament.

One does not need to be a legal luminary to appreciate the direct interference such an inquiry could pose to the technical build up of the Black Stars, which lie entirely within the domain of the Ghana Football Association. I dare add that if there is need to establish what happened in camp, it is not the role of politicians to do so. The GFA has several organs. The highest organ in terms of hierarchy is the GFA Congress. If congress wants to establish an inquiry into how the team was prepared, and how the camp was organised, that is entirely in order.

It is not for a fumbling government, that has failed in every sphere of life in Ghana and visited the worst pains on the average Ghanaian, to meddle in the affairs of our football, the only area with a semblance of sanity in this Land of our Birth.

Yesterday, I reproduced Articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes that warn strongly against interference from third parties. For emphasis, I re-state the relevant articles. Articles (g) of Statute 13 states: “Members are to manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third party; to comply fully with all other duties arising from these Statutes and other regulations.

2: Violations of the above-mentioned obligations by any Member may lead to sanctions provided for in these Statutes.

3: Violations of paragraph 1(g) may also lead to sanctions even if the third-party influence was not the fault of Member concerned.”

Article 17 of the Statutes deal with the independence of Member associations: “Each Member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.”

Mr. Ayariga is a lawyer and ought to appreciate the import of these clauses better than some of us, who are mere laymen in the face of the law. That is why I am shocked by the Minister’s statement to the effect that as Minister of Sports, he and his government would wait on FIFA’s reaction to their misbehaviour before withdrawing the two clauses in the terms of reference of the so-called commission.

On Monday, I heard Mr. Kobina Ade Coker, Chairman of the Greater Accra Regional branch of the NDC, making an assertion on television that even if FIFA placed a ban on Ghana, it would not amount to anything. Some of us would be worried.

A ban would translate into a total freeze on the nation’s participation in international football. I do not believe this nation is ever prepared to play football outside the rules and regulations of the world governing body, Mr. Coker, one-time Chairman of Accra Great Olympics, who also founded the defunct Olympiacos, one of those gunning for the blood of Kwasi Nyatakyi as FA President, was heard stating confidently that no committee of enquiry had ever made adverse findings against him in connection with the organisation of football.

I would like to believe he did not mean what he said.

If he continues making that assertion, I promise him that I would re-produce the entire findings and recommendations of the Gbadegbe Committee on the transfer of players. I am afraid the Okudzeto Presidential Commission on the May 9 Ohene Djan Stadium disaster also made incriminating findings and recommendations against the Chairman of the Greater Accra NDC. These are all on record.

I am afraid even the so-called football conference, called at the instance of Sports Minister Mahama Ayariga, and its report, infringe on the FIFA Statutes. The recommendation that the term of office of the GFA President should be limited to two is equally offensive. I am afraid Dr. Kwame Baah-Nuako and his so-called Finance and Marketing Committee, which recommended the scrapping of the winning bonus system to players, did not know what they were talking about.

I was not at the so-called football conference. I have not been privileged to read the report of the committee either. But newspaper reports indicate that Dr. Nuako and his committee also recommended what they referred to as qualification bonuses, under which players were to be paid for qualifying for major competitions. Thank God those who made these recommendations have no locus, in terms of the administration of football in this country at the moment. Their findings and recommendations are dangerous to the administration of football in this country. Footballers would vote with their feet on this suggestion.

That is why I raise a glass for Alhaji Grusah, owner of King Faisal Babies, for kicking against the recommendations right away.
“You cannot say you will give players winning bonuses or qualifications bonuses without involving them for discussion. That cannot be possible. There must always be negotiations between players and their management to decide what to take. As for that one, I will not agree. The players must be involved,” according to state-run Ghanaian Times’ reportage on the so-called football summit in Accra.

Whatever it is, Mahama Ayariga and his Presidential Commission on the Black Stars’ performance in Brazil should not lead Ghana into temptation. We dare not risk a FIFA ban at this stage in our football development. It is one call the new Sports Minister could ignore at his peril.