Sports News of Friday, 8 August 2014


Gov't insists on Commission of Inquiry but "will be careful"

Government is insisting the Presidential Commission set up to investigate Ghana’s participation at the World cup will continue with its work despite a warning by world football governing body, Fifa.

A letter from Fifa addressed to the Ghana Football Association yesterday stated that the wording of some of the terms of reference for the Commission are purely football matters and must be handled by the GFA’s Congress.

Specifically, Fifa is disturbed by the plan to look into the preparation of the Black Stars and the events at the team’s camp during their stay in Brazil.

According to the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mahama Ayariga the Commission will tread cautiously in its work and not incur the wrath of football governing body, FIFA.

He was speaking on the Citi Breakfast Show on Friday morning. “We remain committed to engaging with Fifa constructively on how the commission’s work can be done without offending.”

“The Commission’s mandate is simply to find out what happened in Brazil and I don’t think that…offends Fifa. But if they should ask how, we will also look at our terms of reference.”

Fifa claim the Commission’s mandate is at variance with its policy on governments interference in the running of football.

A source at the FA tells Citi Sports: “You know Fifa was unhappy even before the Commission was set up by the President [John Mahama] and inaugurated by [Sports Minister] Mahama Ayariga recently. If you recall, the media got hold of a letter sent by Fifa to the GFA asking for clarification of what the Commission would do and all that.”

The letter is the latest chapter in the political maneuvering between the Ghana government, the football association, and Fifa.

In the wake of Ghana’s poor show at the recent World Cup, the Sports Ministry set up a three-member committee to investigate matters of player indiscipline and some poor decisions by the management team, as well as general poor performance in the tournament.

However, President John Mahama later upgraded the setup from a committee to a Commission of Inquiry.

Article 279 of Ghana’s constitution says such a commission “shall have the powers, rights and privileges of the High Court or a Justice of the High Court at a trial.”

In the eyes of Fifa, this simply means the GFA is under trial from a High Court. And this scares them.

Knowing from experience how these things play out, the powerful Zurich-based body immediately wrote to the GFA on July 16 in a clarity-seeking letter.

The letter stated, among other things that “the composition and competences of the said commission are unclear”, making sure to state their position on the matter.

“We deem it important to clarify from the beginning the procedures and to ensure that the Ghana Football Association can operate without inference as required by the Fifa statutes.”

Ghana’s Sports Minister was quick to respond.

“It’s perfectly legitimate for Fifa to write to the GFA. They are well within their rights and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Ayariga told Citi FM the following day.

Fifa’s specific problem?
The terms of reference of the commission includes looking into the preparation of the Black Stars and the events at the team’s camp during their stay in Brazil.

That worries Fifa, who stand accused by many of shielding corrupt football associations the world over by invoking the dreaded “government interference” clause.

In fact, Citi Sports understands that Fifa’s recent letter sent on Thursday hints at the fact that this particular mandate from the President of Ghana is not necessary, because Brazil 2014 – and matters arising – is a strictly football matter that must be handled by the congress of the GFA and not any other body.

How the Ghana government plan to win Fifa have a long history of banning any member that cannot advise their government to stay clear of their operations.

The GFA’s detractors say they are silently pushing Fifa’s agenda in the background, as they know any investigation into the happenings in Brazil may hurt them politically.

But the Commission of Inquiry has been at pains to say they will be careful not to step on any legal landmines.

“Football is a passion but we should not allow our passion and anger to rob everybody of the truth and to rob our minds of good reasoning,” said Kofi Anokye Darko, one of the Commission’s three members.

In pre-empting Fifa’s displeasure, Anokye – speaking at an initial media briefing to sensitize the local press of the proper industry practice and standard for the coverage on the proceedings – goes on to explain the thinking behind the process.

“We are doing this to ensure there’s ownership in all we do because the problem and solution lie with all of us, not just [the] three wise men [who make up this Commission].”

The Commission is chaired by Justice Senyo Dzamefe, while the other member is Moses Foh-Amoaning, a lawyer who has practiced sports journalism for upwards of four decades.

“If you look at the calibre of people on this commission, surely we would not do anything to hurt Ghana’s chances going into the future,” Foh-Amoaning said.

“The Black Stars have African Cup qualifiers in a few weeks and we understand that everything we have to do will have that context in mind. So there’s no cause for alarm.”

What the Commission plans to do is to have a dance with the devil and escape unscathed. The Commission are offering a promise of using their legal credentials to skirt Fifa’s wrath.

The sports minister was categorical in saying on the Citi Breakfast Show that “the Commission will definitely do its work” seeing as “Fifa does not seem to see as offensive so for me it is question of construction…and I think that there should be a way to go around that.”

The Ghana government is bent on repairing the beating the country’s usually clean sporting reputation received at the World Cup.