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Corruption in sports: Ghana’s flight of cash to Brazil cited in TI report

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The Black Stars
The Black Stars

A new Transparency International (TI) report on corruption in sports, has cited Ghana’s infamous airlifting of cash to footballers at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, as a reflection of corruption in the game.

The report, from a Transparency International/Forza Football poll says the national football team, the Black Stars, brought undue international attention on themselves when they demanded payment of their appearance fees during the 2014 World Cup, threatening to revolt and boycott the tournament.

Consequently the Ghana government mobilized and airlifted an amount in excess of $3 million to the players, drawing public criticism for both the government and the players.

There was similar action by the national team of Cameroon which threatened not to fly to the tournament in Brazil, just as there had been earlier ones by Nigeria (just before the 2013 Confederations Cup) and Togo, (at the 2006 World Cup).

TI’s Global Corruption Report: Sport says while players risk public ridicule and contempt for such behaviour, there is the risk of administrators pocketing their money if they do not resort to such measures because as is sometimes the case in Africa, “money meant for looking after the team – players’ allowances and bonuses – is pocketed by the administrators in the football associations.”

“Football in Africa suffers under these elected officials because they have an eye on other things – such as politics, or simply the amassing of wealth. As a result, there is a chronic lack of professionalism in the management of the game,” the report says.

On the African continent, the report cites the embezzlement of funds in Kenya and Zambia, internal match fixing within Nigeria and South Africa and in collusion with external betting syndicates, trafficking of young footballers to Europe by rogue agents, and doping in Kenya, which has recorded 19 positive tests and bans in the last two years.

The Global Corruption Report: Sport also highlights corruption in the selection processes across the continent and the discretion of federations to pick athletes through a “wild card system”, which makes it prone to abuse – victimisation or favouritism – in the selection of players for international tournaments.

On tournaments and big sporting events, the report says that “delegations of African teams to these big events are always bloated, with officials of federations, and even government functionaries, further abusing such occasions by taking mistresses, friends and relatives along for the ride, all at the expense of the taxpayer.”

Corruption in FIFA

As part of the report on corruption in sports, Transparency International conducted a  poll of 25,000 fans in 28 countries by Transparency, from February 8 to 17, 2016, which found that only 19 per cent (4,828) showed confidence in FIFA, while 69 per cent (17,689) of fans have no confidence in FIFA following revelations of corruption in the world football body.

60 per cent would not choose any of the current candidates standing in the FIFA presidential election this week while 43 per cent also said the scandals are affecting how they enjoy football.

However, 50 per cent said FIFA has a chance to restore its reputation

“FIFA should take this message to heart. Unless it acts, more fans will turn away from football. The trust levels are low but the fans will give FIFA a chance if it acts now,” Gareth Sweeney, Editor of the corruption report in sports was quoted as saying.

Transparency International recommends increased independent oversight in international sports governance, stringent and transparent criteria for eligibility of athletes, increased financial transparency and citizen engagement in bids for sporting events.

In addition to that, sponsors, it says must promote integrity and hold sports organisations to the same standards that they apply to their supply chain.

By Emmanuel Odonkor

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