The Sports Infrastructure Deficit in Ghana

Sometime last year, Ghanaians woke up to the news that Ghana had plans of hosting the 2038 FIFA World Cup. Apparently the National Development Planning Commission had unveiled plans to build a state-of-the-art football stadium, to be named the Black Star stadium, which would be the flagship venue for the tournament.

It is not a bad idea, but there is only one problem: One stadium will not be enough to host a World Cup. Not even four or five. We will need at least 10 of such state-of the art stadia to even have our World Cup Bid document read.

Now let’s do the math. To build one truly world class stadium, we are looking at not less than US$200million. So, to build 10 of these would cost US$2billion. And this is actually a conservative figure, and this is to meet today’s standards. The truly world class stadia these days can cost up to $1billion. I can only imagine how much it would cost to build one to meet the standards of 2038.

I said in an earlier post that in Ghana, there is no government which in the foreseeable future will be able to afford to dish out even US$150million to build a single stadium, especially not when there is a lack of schools for our kids to attend and a lack of hospitals to take care of the sick. It just won’t happen.

As a sports enthusiast, especially an avid football fan, I would love nothing more than for Ghana to host the World Cup, but I think we need to start from somewhere else. Let’s look at sports in general, even as mere recreation.

How many parks do we have where people can just go and play and/or practice their favourite sports in Accra? If the situation in Accra is nothing to write home about, then we shouldn’t even bother counting anywhere else.

Where do we start from? I suggest that we start from the schools. We have 2016 districts in this country and under one of the previous governments, the Model School concept was adopted. Each district has one Model School which has relatively better facilities than other schools in the district.

We can either use the chosen Model Schools, or designate one school in each district and have a multi-purpose sports court built where after school hours and on weekends the general public could go and just play some sports.

How do we fund this? We have what is known as the Ghana Club 100. If we can convince each member of that distinguished club to commit to funding just two of these courts, which really are not so expensive, then that would be 200 districts benefitting from getting a new court. If we are lucky and some companies can commit to building more than two, then hopefully all 216 districts will be sorted.

I know it is easier said than done, but we need to try to get them to listen, and act, at least. Not every member will commit to it, I know, but I am very sure that of those that will, there may be some willing to commit to building more than two. Perhaps one big company may even decide to contribute 10 of the courts and/or pitches. Who knows? It will not solve the entire problem, but at least it is a start.

This seems like a simplistic solution but in subsequent articles, I will delve into how it can be done and what perhaps the companies stand to gain from investing in these courts. One of my missions for the year is for us to take practical steps to change our sporting landscape. Get more people to take part in sports and also get more people or companies, for that matter, to invest in sports.

One of the ways to make that happen is to make the infrastructure for sports available. We may find that we have talent in sports other than football as well, all over the country. We may start making a mark in sports like volleyball, handball, basketball and others, once we have the infrastructure in place.

When these companies invest in ‘little’ sports projects like these, they just may begin to see, with the right approach, how sports can actually be a means for them to grow even quicker and then get us closer having enough investment to building the proper infrastructure for bidding to host the 2038 FIFA World Cup, and maybe even the 2044 Olympic Games. Who knows? Let us wake up, and make 2018 the year that Ghana sports takes off again. It is time.

By Willem Alexander Coleman