Covering corruption in Ghana football

Not a day goes by without word of some fraudulent or dishonest conduct by people in positions of trust in the local football game, and more generally in Ghana sports as a whole.

From the numerous petitions to the GFA by some club administrators, it would appear that, the problem of corruption in the game goes much deeper than previously thought.

Indeed it is not uncommon to hear about situations where regional FA bosses literally choose which teams get promoted to play in the second and first divisions.

In that sense, the football league is played as a mere formality as everything is made possible for such teams to win matches whether by fair or foul means.

The recent petitions to the FA by the founder of Ketu Stars, Abdul Kadiri, and the owner of Suhum Maxbees, Nana Budu, point to that fact.

To make matters worse, most of the regional FAs do not have their accounts audited at the end of year. For example, the Volta Regional FA’s accounts have not been audited for the past nine years.

Local Black Stars’ performance linked to corruption!

In the aftermath of the local Black Stars’ disastrous performance at the 2011 African Nations Championship, some attempts have been made to link the team’s performance to perceived corruption and injustice in the league.

Ghanaians had high expectations after the head coach of the team Hebert Addo selected the cream of players from the defending league champions Aduana Stars and the current league leaders Berekum Chelsea.

But many have been left wondering whether indeed we have been crowning worth champions following the national team’s indifferent showing in Sudan.

I remember an interview I had with former GFA boss Ben Koufie before the current league campaign started last year.  The experienced coach and administrator expressed grave worry about the future of the local game due to the worsening case of bribery of match officials.

On the same programme, a FIFA Refereeing Instructor Joseph Wellington confirmed my worst fears that bribery of match officials has become widespread; he therefore urged the need to nip the act in the bud.

Well, months on you will want to ask whether any steps have been taken to check the menace?  It is business as usual.

The role of the media

Where corruption or the perception of corruption exists, the role of the journalist is to help the general public make sense of the issue(s) through informed systematic inquiry. Unfortunately, the need to better understand issues relating to corruption (real or perceived) is often misconstrued as attempts to “pull him down”.

Given the real and alleged levels of corruption within football administration in Ghana, there is a need for those of us in sports journalism to do an introspective self-examination to see whether we are helping to address the problem, or simply adding fuel to the problem through our actions or inaction.

Under no circumstance should the media be seen as getting its hands dirty by actively meddling in the affairs of the Ghana Football Association, primarily as members of club sides. For example, journalists should not manufacture stories that have no factual basis just to antagonize or discredit legitimate processes.

Likewise, journalists should not muddy or “water down” stories for which there is reasonable cause for further journalistic investigation to gain a better understanding of the issues at stake. If journalists did any of these two things, that would constitute a surrendering of the moral high ground.

Sadly though, this practice of surrendering the moral high ground, often to the highest bidder, is very common in certain quarters.  In other cases, journalists take up positions as the public relations officers of club sides in the country because of the unique positions they occupy in society.

To put it bluntly, how can the media fulfill its Fourth Estate obligation to the public at large if we confuse our need for close access to football administrators with being part of the “team”?

Once compromised, it is easy to understand why some journalists show a significant degree of discomfort with, and disinterest in, particular news stories that have a negative impact on their interest i.e., “team”.

I have watched in horror over the past few months as some media elements wage an unrelenting attack on other media personalities whom they tag as “anti-GFA”.

The Graphic Sports in particular has come under heavy criticism for its reportage on possible corruption at the GFA, the most recent story being the alleged $4,000 payments to Executive Committee members of the FA who did not travel to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Despite the Graphic Sports’ alleged hate campaign and conspiracies, the stories that the national paper has vigorously pursued have generally turned out to have some element of truth to them.

Cheerleading and scapegoating

Matters also came to a head following FA President Kwesi Nyantakyi’s election to the CAF Executive Committee position in Sudan.

Some supporters of Mr. Nyantakyi’s administration used the occasion to cast aspersions on perceived opponents of the FA. Sadly, it seems there are journalists who cannot separate the joy of seeing a fellow Ghanaian elected to CAF’s executive committee from outstanding questions about the administration of football in Ghana.

Are we to believe that the honor of being elected to a position of authority equates to vindication on any or all outstanding matters of criminal or ethical relevance? Does it mean the new position absolves the FA of other lingering questions of national significance?

Having said that, it is instructive to note that in the final analysis; even some FA members do value the role the media plays in developing the game and therefore see criticism as a good way of checking excesses in their administration.

It will be erroneous to conclude that a media house or a media person is an enemy of the FA simply because he/she criticises or reviews questionable FA practices.

Way forward

I once overheard a journalist say that it was no longer necessary to talk about the “never ending story” of corruption at the Eastern Regional Football Association (RFA) because in his view, the football authorities would simply not take any action against the RFA Chairman, Mohammed Lawal.

But there has to be an alternate way forward.

A case in point is the International media’s exposure on how International Olympic Committee members traded their “votes for cash” in what became known as the ‘Salt Lake Scandal’ over a decade ago.

For strangers in Jerusalem, Salt Lake City won the right to host the 2002 Winter Olympics by offering scholarships to the children of IOC members, land in Utah and other lavish gifts.

The IOC has been able to streamline its voting procedure to avoid another such scandal. It might not be full-proof but at least they have made an attempt to tackle what was a very serious issue.

I can only borrow a quote from the BBC’s James Pearce who wrote a piece on possible lessons that FIFA could learn from its counterparts, the International Olympic Committee following the controversial award of the World Cup hosting rights to Russia and Qatar.

Mr. Pearce’s said “the only way FIFA will change is if there is strong and united international pressure.”


There is the need for a concerted effort to tackle the unsavory and compromising manner in which sports, especially football is covered in Ghana by the media.

To that effect, I believe the new leadership of the Sports Writers Association (SWAG) and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) have the onus of responsibility to create a platform for a dispassionate discussion on effective and forward looking coverage of sports in Ghana.

Perhaps, a stakeholders meeting of sports journalists could lead to the development of a framework for coverage of sports in Ghana.

Such a framework will help current and aspiring journalists cover sports in a manner that most benefits the nation and helps the different sporting disciplines move forward in highly productive yet accountable ways.

By Erasmus Kwaw

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