Last week Ghana football made news all over the world for the wrong reasons culminating in FIFA’s threat to ban Ghana. The deadline they gave of yesterday has passed but some uncertainty remains.
But in the wake of the Economic and Organized Crime Office’s raid, an emerging attitude among a cross-section of the public is that members of the executive committee of the Ghana Football Association think they are above the law. In addition, one question many callers to radio stations have asked is why don’t they want to be accountable? If they have nothing to hide why don’t they just open their books? Why should members of the FA not be subject to the laws of Ghana? My view is that the attitudes are often formed from a lack of understanding for how the association works. This post attempts to clarify some of the confusion.
By reviewing the FA’s general mandate, how its committees are formed, how it is held to account, its working relationship with government agencies and role in national team assignments, I hope some of the questions with regard to the FA’s perceived impunity are cleared. Also, the explanation may provide context and information so that the conversations surrounding the FA are better informed. Finally, it may encourage those who are ignoring facts in order to justify preconceived notions about the individuals in the executive committee – whether it be their perceived political allegiances or corruption or plain arrogance – to reexamine their positions.
Simply put, the GFA is in charge of football development and promotion in the country. It is also in charge of regulating “association football in all its forms.” Primarily, the GFA does this through a ‘congress’ whose membership ranges from the Accra Hearts of Oaks of this world to the Security Services. As article 4.10 of the regulations state, the GFA is also responsible for organizing “training and competitive programmes and arrange and oversee the participation of National teams at various levels in International Competitions organized by FIFA, CAF and WAFU.”
In addition to organizing the country’s football leagues, this function of the GFA is what many people have been most exposed to. And as Ghana’s national teams since independence have excelled in regional, continental and in more recent memory World tournaments, so has the prominence and influence of the FA increased.
Role in National Team Assignments
The function of arranging for the participation in international competition brings into focus GFA’s role in managing Ghana’s national teams. To be sure, the expenses of the various national teams are high. For example, the government spent a little over eight million US dollars on the Black Stars to participate in the 2010 World Cup. So, it is easy to see that while the GFA manages the affairs of the national teams, it cannot fully fund them. Until recently, national teams were funded solely from government sources or as many like to say, taxpayer money. The success of the Black Stars in particular has created more opportunities for private sponsorship. Now, the FA boasts sponsorship accounts with Guinness, Goldfields Ghana and Rice Masters. This year’s World Cup even provided the FA with enough funds to reimburse the Ministry for all the expenses incurred by the Black Stars from their camping before the tournament and throughout the tournament.
Now, you could say that there is more of a partnership between the Ministry of Sports and the FA than existed even ten years ago. In real terms, it means the coach of the senior national team has for the last few years been paid from the sponsorship agreement between Goldfields Ghana, a mining company and the GFA. On the other side of the coin, the current assistant’s contract is with the Sports Ministry.
Much of the other expenditure in competition years is taken care of by the Ministry of Sports after a budget is agreed on by the two parties. Clearly, the partnership is still tilted in favor of government especially when the national teams are involved in international tournaments. But as you will see later in this piece, in the paragraph on the working relationship, this fact is largely irrelevant when it comes to accountability.
Government and the GFA
Submitting to FIFA rules means that the GFA is not to be regarded as a department of a ministry. It does not come under government control whatsoever. In that sense, a distinction must be made between the organizing bodies for hockey, athletics, tennis etc which come directly under the National Sports Council, the policy implementing body for sports development in Ghana.
Again, one must distinguish between the GOC and the GFA. While both submit to the rules of larger international bodies (GFA to FIFA and GOC to IOC), there are major differences in how they function. Because the GOC is largely constituted by sports associations formed under the Sports Council, there is much more room for political involvement. However, the IOC believes that when electing the leadership of the GOC, the government should not be able to impose anyone. The IOC insists that the leadership of the GOC is democratically elected.
GOC is not under NSC. But the associations that come under NSC elect the president of the GOC. By virtue of this structure therefore, there is bound to be and there is heavy government involvement in how GOC is organized and resourced. Coaches are paid for by government, the office facilities that the organizations use to work are all sports council premises.
This arrangement does not extend to GFA and is reflected in the fact that when stadiums like Accra and Baba Yara sports stadiums are used for GFA activities, the Sports Council gets paid.
How Committees are selected
Committees such as the referee and disciplinary committees of FA are chosen from within the FA. A new committee, the Public Interests Committee has just been introduced as an acknowledgment by FIFA of the role of government especially in African countries. The PIC is a five member body that is required to have two government appointees. The government’s recently- announced appointees are Abedi Pele and Mr. Oteng Arthur.
Working relationship with Sports Ministry
Many have pointed out that since government spends so much on football it should be allowed to hold the GFA to account. I am all for accountability. Except that if you examine the way government disburses the money to the FA, you’d have to say that the onus is more on government to provide said accountability. This is because as hard as it is to believe, no government money physically goes through GFA except for very special cases like when urgent drugs or medical procedures are needed.
For example, during the World Cup, a Sports Ministry accountant was physically present to pay the players’ appearance fees and bonuses for hotel bills. The same was done for the per diem of accredited officials and members of the technical staff. The recipients in turn sign as having received the money. In the event of the special case referred to above arising, an imprest is provided for the specific need and that imprest is retired with receipts and other relevant documents.
As for accommodation and travel arrangements, the bills are paid directly to the hotels and travel agents/airline companies after they submit their invoices.
During a competition, the other staff (welfare officer, physio, kit manager, goalkeeper’s trainer) get per diem and match bonuses paid for by the Sports Ministry. If it is a friendly match then the proceeds of the match go to paying these staff.
How organization is audited/held accountable (sponsorships, government funding)
The GFA’s accounts are audited by an independent auditor (Ghana Audit Service) and then submitted every year to the Public Accounts Committee in parliament. This provision to be audited is required by FIFA and in the GFA statutes. The FA’s audited accounts reflect the support they receive from government as well as income from private sponsorships.
Another way the FA has to account is to its sponsors. For example, in the Goldfields contract, the company pays money directly into the head coach’s account. To date no sponsor has protested at the FA’s use of its sponsorship funds and in fact two of the biggest sponsors have renewed their initial contracts.
So when some ask whether FIFA’s law supersedes Ghana’s law, the answer is not whether one rules over the other or not. The answer is that by virtue of Ghana’s membership of FIFA, the GFA have agreed to certain procedures. Part of that procedure extends to how the FA is audited. The fact that this procedure includes the parliament of Ghana and that the audited accounts are a matter of public record should calm the outrage that the FA is above the law because clearly they are not.