Whenever we talk about sports in Ghana, it is always the same ones: football, boxing and athletics. Maybe we will throw in hockey, volleyball, now some basketball, and tennis too. Among all these, it is no secret that football takes an overwhelming chunk of the attention, with all the other sports sharing the little that is left. A lot of lip service has been paid to the development of all these sports, but gradually, change will come. I am positive about it.
I have been advocating for the creation of a sports ecosystem which would inspire enough confidence for the corporate world to want to invest in our sports. I have been calling for reforms in the way our various sports are ran and administered in order to attract partnerships from companies in Ghana.
When we were looking for partnerships for the recent U13 Dubai Intercontinental Cup, one of the common reasons we were given for being turned down was that, for their corporate social responsibility, they do not focus on sports. In most cases it was either health or education.
Here is where my difficulty lies. First of all, I believe that we need to stop looking at sports and its development purely from the social angle, where it relies on CSR to survive. There are countless commercial benefits in sports to make companies want to use sports to elevate their various brands to another level.
Centa14 Sports and Entertainment is a new company with new ideas, and so we decided to take the challenge of using a U13 football tournament to see if we could convince corporate Ghana to invest in it. Unfortunately, we were only able to get help from Canada and Dubai. Nothing from Ghana.
Another difficulty lies with the fact that very few companies, if any at all, consider sports as a means of communicating to their target market. All the places we went to said they were either focused on health or education.
It makes me wonder, doesn’t sport help increase the health of the population? Also, these days I hardly come across any sports organization that does not have some educational program tied to it.
I guess in the 21st century, everyone knows that a professional career in sports is not guaranteed. Even if one does become a professional, how long does that career last? Getting an education is critical to even pursuing a career in sports these days.
If it is that difficult to get partnerships in Ghana for football, then I can only imagine what people go through seeking for partnerships in other sports. Sitting down thinking about how hard it is to get people to buy into the idea of investing in sports, even for events that in today’s sporting terms are very “inexpensive”, and that it may even be easier to get help from outside Ghana, then why not explore the idea of taking it up a notch? Why not consider applying for Tema or Takoradi to host a leg of either the America’s Cup or the Volvo Ocean Race?
For the benefit of those who may not know what any of them may be, they are both sailing events. Yes, sailing. The America’s Cup is a race between two yachts, one of them known as the defender, which represents the yacht that holds the cup, and the second yacht, known as the challenger, representing the yacht club challenging for the cup.
The Volvo Ocean Race, is a round-the-world sailing race, which normally takes nine or ten months to complete, where they make stops at various points across the globe.
Sailing is definitely not a sport that Ghanaians would be interested in, granted. But these are high end sports that would bring a lot of attention, tourism and perhaps even interest in a new sport to Ghana. The first two are guaranteed.
These are high end sports with high end sponsors. There will be a massive influx of some the world’s most affluent people and the most luxury brands for a few days. Accra is projected to be the African city with the highest growth in millionaires over the next decade too, so that presents a case for the brands to make a presence in Ghana for a few days, in addition to their media exposure to do some good business.
If we cannot get the Ghanaian companies to invest in our sports, in a way that will be mutually beneficial, then maybe we need to show Ghanaian companies how it is done, by bringing in the Louis Vuittons, the Rolexes, the Emirates Airlines, Volvos and the AkzoNobels of the world, and on our own soil too.
I am in no way saying that it will be an easy feat to get Ghana to host any of these events, but I believe that with a few modifications and permission from the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, either Tema or Takoradi should be able to host an event like any of them. Takoradi especially seems ripe for an event like that with their vibrant hospitality setting.
It is a very long shot, but we even harbour hopes of bidding to host a FIFA World Cup with one flagship stadium in Accra. Hosting a sailing event, in my estimation, is a far more realistic target in the next five to seven years.
Let’s put our shoulders to the wheel, and look beyond what is “comfortable”. This way we also turn the heads of our local companies so they see what they have been missing out on.
After all, we are always asked to dream big, right? On this note, I would like to wish everyone a very happy Easter. May the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ bring the blessings of peace to everyone, and an improved sports industry in Ghana. It is time.
By Willem Alexander Coleman