GOC's Funding Proposal

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A GHANA OLYMPIC COMMITTEE PROPOSAL ON A NEW FUNDING REGIME FOR SPORTS IN GHANA

Introduction

 

In the aftermath of the 2012 London Olympics, a significant national debate ensued about the utility of sending national sportsmen and sportswomen who do not have a clear chance of winning medals to participate. The refrain from a substantial portion of the population involved in the debate was that it constituted a waste of scarce, precious national resources to take athletes who, from their pre-Games performances, were not evident medal winners.

 

Some people, in their thinking that it was the responsibility of the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) to prepare athletes for competitions such as the Olympic Games, even suggested that officials of the GOC, and their counterparts in the National Sports Authority (NSA), should be charged with causing financial loss to the state and prosecuted accordingly. That was the extent of national disappointment with Team Ghana’s inability to garner medals, as well as with the miniscule size of the team of 9 sportsmen and women, a number retrogressive in comparison to the larger contingents of earlier decades.

 

The logical question that emanates regards why the performance of our athletes and teams has declined over the years? Simply, the quantum of funding disbursements for Ghana’s preparation has not kept pace with the scientific evolution of the sport; similarly, the timing of funding releases has undermined the execution of even the best-laid preparation plans. So, although the level of pure sporting talent remains high in Ghana, relative to other countries we have fallen behind insofar as infrastructure, coaching, and athlete development, support, and preparation are concerned.

 

Today’s funding dilemma

The current funding streams for sport in Ghana generally originate from two sources: government and the private sector. Despite Government’s tremendous effort to provide funding outlays for sports development and participation, outside of football these are never considered sufficient. Indeed, the funds are generally considered woefully inadequate for the lesser-appreciated (not “lesser-known”) sports.

 

Beyond the dilemma with the magnitude of funding is the serious concern that government funding always seems to come so late that it can, at best, be only inefficiently used, if not completely wasted; the late timing generally precludes athletes from receiving the minimum preparation necessary to perform at their best for mother Ghana. In effect then, although it would remain insufficient to provide the requisite level of funding for top-level competitiveness, a short-run goal should be to streamline the timing of existing funding flows so as to obtain substantially better value-for-money for our country.

 

The concerns regarding quantum and timing of funding flows has been compounded in 2013 by the issue of how sustainable our funding flows are, in that since the beginning of this year (to date), no funds have been released to support the activities of any sports discipline with the exception of football. National associations that had spent the last few years developing junior athletes in preparation for Rio were undermined by this year’s funding drought, which may have also laid to waste the investment of the last couple of years. Compounding the uncharacteristic lack of funding this year is the fact that reimbursements that were promised to national associations that borrowed monies to fund their activities in 2012 were never paid, leaving those associations in the difficult situation of not being able to borrow monies to tide their teams through this year’s funding drought.

Recent indications by the Sports Minister that the funding regime was going to change, such that national federations had to find their own funding, has led some to erroneously speculate about how much funding Government was providing to associations. Beyond national championships and participation in international competitions (and the costs associated with such), national associations have generally always fended for themselves. The corollary, then, is that the Minister’s statement suggests that associations will have to themselves pay for our national teams to represent Ghana at African Championships, as well as Commonwealth and Olympic Games. After all, it was these (and the preparation for them) that Government paid for in the past. Clarity is dearly needed about Government’s role in sport going forward.

 

Beyond Government, the nation has looked to corporate sponsors to support the development of sports. Even though clearer marketing of the tax benefits associated with funding sport would probably attract more sponsors, the corporate world has definitely been a fine partner to Government, with respect to sports development in Ghana. The major conundrum about the reliance on corporate sponsors, though, is that their affinity seems to be primarily for supporting marketable “events”, which allow them to brand and market their corporate identities. Sponsors also have a legitimate question when they ask whether they are expected to completely take over Government’s obligatory responsibility to develop sports, or continue to support, and collaborate with, Government to develop sports.

 

The more mundane needs in sports development—those of providing the year-round day-to-day upkeep and support for our elite athletes (and of course, coaches) in training; providing athletes regular international competitive opportunities as part of their training regimens; purchasing the equipment and kit necessary for today’s scientific training of athletes; grooming a pipeline of athletes by investing in the development of youth prospects (and coaches); and the building and maintenance of infrastructure such as stadia, pitches, courts, gyms, tracks, etc.—are certainly not as attractive to corporate sponsors. Yet, without improvements in these most-basic of sport development needs, the likelihood that Ghana can return to rubbing shoulders with the best in the world is very slim.

 

The 2011 All-Africa Games as an example

Ghana’s recent participation in the 2011 African Games evidences the typical outcome that is generally derivative from the cumulation of issues outlined above. First, the non-existence of an opportunity to “brand” venues in Ghana meant that corporate involvement or support was virtually invisible. Second, there was absolutely no way the magnitude of funding provided could have supported any mid- to long-term preparation of our elite athletes. Third, the timing of the arrival of the government funds extinguished any chance that Ghana could get good value for money; late funding translated into last minute purchases of tickets, equipment, and kitting, all of which happened just before the trip, or in some instances upon arrival at the Games.

 

Also detrimental was the fact that, for Games that ended in 2011, bonuses for those who, against all odds, persevered to win laurels for our beloved country, took about a year to be paid. The associated adverse outcomes of this tardiness in payment include that it provokes distrust of officialdom by sportswomen and sportsmen, and more generally leads to apathy, reduced patriotism, and lowered motivation among athletes and coaches; effectively, the late timing of funding flows has the further negative impact of psychologically demotivating athletes going forward.

 

As far as infrastructure is concerned, the build-up to the 2011 All-Africa Games clarified the facilities deficit in Ghana, and the resultant impact on sports preparation and performance. All the indoor sports (including boxing, table tennis, badminton, taekwondo), had to share the Sports Hall at the national stadium in their daily preparation towards the 2011 All-Africa Games. Thus, one sport would use the hall for a couple of hours, and then they would have to leave for another sport to gain access; this did not even speak to the fact that basketball, volleyball, and handball—sports competed as indoor events at international competitions—are all played outdoors in Ghana, because we do not have the requisite indoor facilities. When we are forced to play them indoors at international competitions, we are already at a major disadvantage. Clearly, our facilities in the country are either woefully inadequate or substandard, if available at all.

 

Getting the proper equipment (e.g., scoring machines for boxing and the martial arts, etc.) to keep us abreast of our international compatriots is difficult, again due to the lack of funds. Indeed, even the apparel or kit that will be worn into competition has been a problem over the last few years; in Maputo (and also at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010), many of our competitors/teams did not have national track suits to even grace the ceremonious occasions where they mounted the podium to receive medals they had won for our dear nation.

 

Beyond the 2011 All-Africa Games, the London Olympics showed us up as a country that had not been able to fully develop a cadre of young athletes to take over from our aging stars. Clearly, there is the need for a different sports funding model that provides a sufficient quantum of money, on a timely basis, and in a sustainable manner. Sports excellence and the winning of medals at significant international events like the Olympic and Commonwealth Games are a direct result of the financial resources invested in the preparation of the teams. Several top sporting countries have increased funding to sports, while others who were not formerly considered top sporting nations (including several developing countries, some less endowed) are now doing well as a result of developing better systems in funding for sports.

 

The British example: solving a problem from the 1996 Olympics

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the entire contingent of Great Britain won 15 medals, only one of which was gold. What was considered a poor performance of the team led to a national debate, from which emanated the decision that Olympic Sports should be funded from the National Lottery. The necessary changes in the law were effected in 1997.

 

 

For the 2000 Sydney Games, Team GB obtained £60 million from the National Lottery for the preparation of their Olympic teams and Great Britain ended up with 11 gold, and a total of 28 medals. At subsequent Olympiads, the performance of Great Britain improved steadily, cumulating in the record haul of 38 medals, including 16 gold, at the London 2012 Games. A total of £264 million was spent on the preparation of Team GB for 2012, and 60% of this amount came from the National Lottery. The revenue from the lottery is also used to develop facilities, procure state-of-the-art equipment, and to maintain (fund) elite and developmental athletes, and coaches.

 

Other countries including Australia, South Africa, and Jamaica have gone in the same direction. Jamaica raised $20 million from the National Lottery towards that country’s participation in the London 2012 Games. Australia, on the other hand, is probably the most recent convert to using lottery funding for sports development; the country that used to rank in the top 10 of sporting nations, found itself placed 29th overall on the 2012 London Olympics table of nations. The poor performance was traced to inadequate funding, and Australia is now planning to turn to their National Lottery for the injection of the necessary funds to prepare national teams for future competitions.

 

Ghana today and going forward

The state of sports in Ghana is well known: the sparse facilities that exist need to be renovated and modernized; training and competition equipment and kit are sorely lacking; the coaching stock needs considerable upgrading to catch up with today’s level of science-based performance; state-of-the-art medical and dietary facilities and support are non-existent; and the basic inducement to keep athletes training continuously is absent; this latter bottleneck explains why young boxing prospects, for instance, are in a hurry to move on to the professional ranks even though they may not be sufficiently matured, and why young athletes in other sports retire prematurely, and way before they realize their full potential.

 

In many ways, the Ghanaian sportsmen and sportswomen of the 1960s were arguably far-better situated than are their contemporary counterparts; they were effectively taken care of in ways that involved addressing their personal and occupational needs. Even though they were then classified as amateurs they were not only resourced to train all year round and provided with adequate kitting and equipment, but they were even frequently employed by state institutions, including the security services. Today, ironically because all sports but amateur boxing are considered professional, many athletes—even those who are potentially world beaters—are in a situation where they would be destitute if not for the benevolence of one or other sponsor. The motivation and mindset to focus exclusively on training is therefore undermined.

 

The issue of funding for sports has been on the table since, at least, the late 1990s, and in part led to the drafting of the National Sports Bill in the 2000s. The passing of this very comprehensive document (i.e., the Sports Bill) has been stalled probably because of disagreement about various aspects of the Bill. Unfortunately, what this means is that, for many years, moving forward on a new funding model has also been thwarted.

 

Given the close tie between funding and success in sports, we at the GOC propose that a funding bill be pushed through the executive and legislative branches, even as work continues on the Sports Bill. When the latter is subsequently passed, it can incorporate the funding vehicle; by hiving off the funding piece, we can ensure that Ghanaian sports performance does not remain retarded by delays in passing the Sports Bill. This is all the more imperative, given that Rio 2016 is barely three years away.

 

The GOC proposal for funding Ghana sports

We propose that, going forward, two main sources of money undergird a funding vehicle for Ghana sports: lottery funding and a marginal VAT on alcohol, tobacco, and soft drink products. These funds, instead of being paid into the Consolidated Fund, would—as we understand is the case for the SSNIT vehicle—go into a special purpose vehicle dedicated to sport development and infrastructure building. Like the GETFUND, it would have an accountable, oversight body to administer it, with members coming from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the National Sports Authority, the Ghana Olympic Committee and other stakeholders. The terms of reference of the oversight board will clarify precisely what the fund should be used for and how to access it.

 

The funds from a lottery developed in conjunction with National Lotteries would be used to support sports development, including programming for talent identification and youth development, training of coaches and auxiliary staff (sports medics, physiotherapists, etc.), funding of individual and team preparation and travel, payment of maintenance stipends and bonuses, purchasing of equipment and kit, etc. Each year, national sports, associations, the National Sports Authority, and other sports-related entities and stakeholders can apply for funds for specific programs or projects with strict accountability to, and controls from, the oversight body. Invariably, this democratization of sports funding in Ghana will increase the stake that the average Ghanaian has in their national sports teams. As a point of reference, on average, each UK citizen contributed 80p in taxes in 2012 towards Team GB’s participation in the London Olympics.

 

Funds accruing from a VAT on alcohol, tobacco, and soft drink products—we propose a marginal increment of 1-2 percent on the existing tax rates on these products—will, in addition to supporting sports development, also be a useful source of funding to develop Ghana’s stock of sports infrastructure. The derivative logic is simply that, given the detrimental impact alcohol, tobacco, and soft drink products have on human health—something recognized by everyone, including even manufacturers of these products—proceeds from the VAT will be the main source of funds for the construction of sports facilities, including stadia, sports halls, tracks, courts, gymnasia, parks and pitches etc., in communities across the length and breadth of the country so as to mitigate the health hazards associated with these products. These community-based facilities will simultaneously address the recreational and health needs of community members, at the same time that they support competitive sports development in Ghana.

 

The significance of these funding mechanisms is that they will yield a continuous and sustainable flow of funds, meaning that over the years all communities across the country should benefit from facilities development. A significant tangent that must be emphasized is that the construction, maintenance and renovation of facilities across the length and breadth of the country will contribute substantially to job-creation in Ghana, with a multiplier effect feeding into our domestic growth.

 

The recommended system should also help address unemployment in general (via the construction, operation, and management of the sporting facilities alluded to above, and the growth of associated industries around sport), and youth unemployment in particular because of the numbers who will now have all the support to develop careers in their sporting disciplines. Finally, in doing this, we would have met the constitutional provision as enshrined in Article 37 clause (5) of the 1992 Constitution, which provides that:

 

                        “The State shall ensure that adequate facilities for sports are

                        provided throughout Ghana and that sports are promoted as

                        a means of fostering national integration, health and self-

                        discipline as well as international friendship and understanding.”

 

Implementing this proposal with urgency will ensure that Ghana’s teams will have adequate resources to prepare for the Rio 2016 Olympics and the preceding Commonwealth Games of 2014. Our conviction is that the proposed mechanisms will generate the needed funds for the development of sports in Ghana. Over the years, this will be a sustainable way of providing the appropriate quantum of money for sports development, and in a timely way. Implementing such a funding regime will release the considerable pressure on government to support everything in sports, at the same time that it ensures that the funding that comes from both government and the corporate sector yield the most efficient profit for Ghana. Plans can be put in place for the development of various disciplines and within a defined period Ghana should regain its glory in the international arena

 

SECRETARY GENERAL

GHANA OLYMPIC COMMITTEE

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