Tanink has defended its extravagant donation as fulfilling a promise to the Stars to reward them handsomely if they “performed well’ at the 2014 International Federation of African Football (FIFA) World Cup in Brazil.
Ordinarily, it would not be out of place to reward the Stars for a good job done, but due to several issues that have arisen in recent times over the Stars in particular and sports in general, I think the gesture from Tanink, coming on the heels of an extra $25,000 donation for each player announced by the President, is a misplaced one. And I will explain why.
There is no doubt that football has become the number one passion sport of Ghana, and we all have contributed to make it so. However, the Black Stars alone do not make up Ghana football so it is not fair and right for companies with the ability to support to only push all incentives to the Black Stars who already enjoy good corporate sponsorship while other national teams and less supported sporting disciplines suffer from neglect by the state and corporate organisations.
There is already an arrangement at the Sports Ministry which encourages corporate bodies who support the development and promotion of sports to seek tax exemptions from Parliament. But offering Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles, apart from Public Relations (PR) advantage for the donors, hardly promotes or develop sports, so asking for tax exemption to reward the 2015 AFCON runners-up is akin to asking your father to provide money for you to buy an expensive gift for your girlfriend’s sister. If the players and officials can be lavished with such expensive gifts as rewards for finishing second, one can only imagine what will be lined up for them when they finally end their long search for the fifth African title.
Besides, it is not the first time in recent times that the Stars have finished as runners-up at the AFCON. At Angola 2010, before their sterling performance at the World Cup, the Stars lost the Nations Cup final by 1-0 to Egypt but that effort was not greeted with pomp and lavish rewards. Not even the outstanding performance at the 2010 World Cup earned them such lavish rewards.
Asking for government’s intervention is not just morally wrong, but it will be a misplaced priority on the part of government, unless there is another motive behind the gesture. The fact is, the sports ministry has not played a lead role in facilitating tax exemptions for corporate bodies with long associations with sports sponsorship to enjoy the benefits of such tax rebates interventions, so it will be an indictment on all those involved if such a gesture is made to pay for the luxury of already “comfortable” players. It is reported that the jeeps are likely to cost about $75,000 each, so one can only imagine the total amount to be waived as tax and what that sum could do to financially disadvantaged sports.
To date, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) still pays taxes on national teams’ equipment provided by the FA’s kit sponsors, Puma. Two years ago when football’s world governing body, FIFA, presented the Women’s League Board (WLB) with equipment for the National Women’s League, the GFA was forced to pay GH¢36,000 in duties in order to clear the items from the port. If the ministry had arranged tax waiver on very important equipment used in developing the game from the grassroots, the FA could have channeled such an amount into direct financial assistance for the clubs participating in the women’s league. Ironically due to the high cost of customs duties, the WLB has been reluctant to ask for more support from FIFA because the financial burden arising from such assistance will be too much to bear.
It is a story that runs through almost all the sporting associations, with some even losing their affiliation with international bodies because they cannot raise the membership fees that are required of them annually. Last year, it took a private firm, McDan Shipping and Logistics, to bail out the Ghana Tennis Association with $20,000 as the association did not get its budgetary allocation from government.
Just last year, the Local Black Stars returned from South Africa as runners-up of the Championship of African Nations (CHAN) without any fanfare on their arrival, neither were they given any special reward. Worse, the team had to wait for months to receive bonuses due them.
There are several other national teams, not just in football, which need financial support but are dying slowly because of neglect and their inability to access their budgetary allocations, while Minister of Sports looks on unconcerned but always quick to jump on board the Black Stars gravy train.
Ever since Ignatious Gaisah (then competing for Ghana) won GOLD the at the 2006 World Indoor Championships in Moscow and silver at the 2005 World Outdoor Championships in Helsinki, since then, several other important feats have been chalked up, yet they have not received such attention. Last year, young Martha Bissiw surprisingly won gold at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, and after a visit to the Flagstaff House and a “Presidential handshake” of GH¢10,000, no further support has come her way from corporate Ghana or the state, even though she needs more assistance now than ever before for her training and development to fulfil her full potential.
There is no doubt the Stars did a great job in Equatorial Guinea, going all the way to the final and only losing to Cote d’Ivoire on penalties against all expectations. However, lavishing on the team for finishing in second place is an overkill.
Nobody can begrudge the Stars if they receive such gifts as they did not ask for it, but for those who want to reward them, the question that must be asked is: Do the Stars really need such gifts?
For me, it is no! They do not. Added to the deliberate silence by the GFA and Ministry over the bonuses paid to the team in Equatorial Guinea, there is already too much suspicion around the national team when it comes to money and such corporate gifts. So the latest gesture by Tanink Limited further depeens the suspicion and conspiracy theory surrounding the team.
As a matter of principle, it is about time laid-down procedure is adopted to ensure fairness rewarding all national athletes – footballers, track and field stars, weight-lifters, among others who have brought glory to the nation.
Just last year, President John Mahama had to redeem a promise made by his predecessors to the Stars each time they won the AFCON (1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982) and it cost the nation a whopping GH¢1.7million! Yet, because of the public announcement of the reward and the transparency in its disbursement, there was no public outcry over a gesture which was deserving and long overdue.