In the last 72 hours, I have come across a news item of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), appointing Dr. Ransford Abbey and two others to put together a Strategic Business plan for the association on the contribution of football to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In these very difficult times where COVID-19 has stung the entire country to the core, issues like these attract my attention. The other day I enjoyed banter as to why football desperately needed to make a return as it affected the livelihoods of many and how its continued absence would hit loads of people really hard. Interesting as it sounded, one critical issue that was very profound was whether the government attached any meaningful importance to football and to a large extent sports in Ghana and in these times. For those who backed the notion of football coming back pretty shortly, they simply could not wrap their heads around why the sport was not getting any look in at Jubilee House. That the President was projecting the opening the Airport and not even a projection on when the sport made a return further irked them. I would attempt to throw out how relevant the sport is to our GDP and possibly put in numerical terms why that leather ball being kicked around by grown men is so key to our GDP.
The write up is set in a very tough neighborhood in Accra where every little kid desperately aspires to make it big and get to the very top. Mane after years of blood sweat and tears, manages to make the grade and signs for a decent European club. He is on wages of €50,000 a month after tax.(GHC 342,500.00 at todays exchange rate of €1=GHC 6.85.Knowing where he comes from like our elders say, he sends a good part of the money he makes in Europe home to take care of the glaring challenges of his family, friends and the community at large. The money is then invested and the returns are pretty imminent
One of the biggest challenges Governments the world over faces is creating employment opportunities for its population. The situation is more profound in Africa where governments have consistently struggled to provide jobs both in the formal and informal sector. These have led to all kinds of challenges for sitting governments who have ended up being voted out. Now this is the thing. With the money generated by this kid earning decent wages in Europe over a relatively long period, the funds that have been invested from his wages into all kinds of businesses would obviously create a good number of jobs. Assuming this lad invests in the hospitality industry which grows to become a chain he could well be employing hundreds of individuals from chefs to labourers. Now that is surely taking of a good number of unemployed people off the streets. People that the government could not find jobs for. Again, in times where the cliché of private sector being the engine of growth, most of these jobs would be provided by individuals with the means to create them. Our banks borrow at huge interests’ rates and demand so much paperwork it’s almost impossible to secure a loan and get something going right after school. That kid passes for that private businessman who can turn around the lives of many. In a part of the world where footballers, are fast becoming like a cash crop, the returns from the sport cannot be overlooked. If we have all these footballers earning decent wages investing in our economy in the short, medium and long term, governments and successive ones as such would be more than happy to be a big part of this success story of job creation.
Again, in part of the world where the extended family system is still very much practiced, some of these financial support finds its way to people we have not even met. Now that makes a different. The practical part, is very much experienced on matchdays/ weekends. Enter Mr Tagoe who operates a restaurant at the Accra Sports Stadium. This gentleman’s business over the years has been heavily supported by fans on matchdays. The businessman has evolved leading to the employment of additional hands. The value chain of this spectacle cannot be overlooked especially in these covid times. The production of food has dropped as demands by Tagoe, the waakye seller, and all the other catering services at the various match venues would have dropped. These guys would not be ordering the quantities they ordered before as consumption continues to fall. What that means is that Tagoe and all the other food providers may be compelled to lay some staff of as profits and the very existence of the business would have been hit. We can the imagine the numbers that live off all these service providers on matchdays. With increase unemployment your guess is as good as mine for any sitting government and the vices they come with.
The bills must be paid to afford quality education. The revenues coming in from the footballers all over the globe vis-à-vis that of the locals in here caters for a large part of the youth and adults. The Free Senior High school concept has been great but that is not good enough to compete on the job front. A first degree appears not to be good enough these days. Even a Masters may not land the job you crave for. These funds would come in handy. A country with a very high level of education competes strongly even without natural resources. The stories of the Singapore’s, Koreas and co are telling. With these funds not readily available, there is extreme pressure on government to provide jobs that are not existent. The wages from football can make a difference when high numbers are doing well to send some monies home to take care of the bills. In a part of the world where capital flight is the norm from foreign investors, we cannot overlook at the importance of the football space with respect to the contribution of football to the nations GDP as these highly skilled workers can turn around their brains both locally and internationally to affect the economy.
In a country with all its health challenges, the impact of football cannot be overlooked. There are appears to be very little opportunities again for the youth. One of the challenges of this issue is when the youth turn to drugs supposedly for solace when there is little to be done. In very difficult environments especially in the slums, this is a common phenomenon. Though there is everything wrong with taking to drugs, an occupied hand may barely fall to this canker. In the absence of nothing though, everything is possible. If the numbers appear disturbing and nationwide, government would have to spend hard earned cash to import drugs to fight the menace. Again, statistics have continually shown that sports is key to maintaining a healthy population with emphasis on youth and to an extent adults. If a good number of a country’s population take to football and even if they don’t make it to a high level, again government would save money to be invested in the growth of other sectors of the economy.
I have had the opportunity to cover many national team assignments and there is always this emotional link to the country. There is always the talk of Ghana about how we have excelled at the youth level and how the Black Stars have excelled at the various AFCONS and the World Cup. All the positive noises about Brazil is definitely not for the publicity surrounding construction firm Odebrecht. It is to do with its exports in the football space. With many fanatic and business minds(agents et al) desperate to find the next Neymar, Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Zico or Pele, it is destination Brazil. Such is the demand for their players on the back of their performances when given the opportunity. In one breadth it is providing thousands of jobs. In another breadth it is serving as destination for talent and with the fine beaches from Rio to Fortaleza comes a good tourism destination away from the hustle of discovering. Tourism in turn brings in huge money from the individuals making the travel to there. In the last twenty by courtesy of our performances, we have had thousands of people coming over to have a closer look at our talent and exporting them thus becoming a tourism hub which brings in the funds.
This ties in perfectly with the earlier point raised about football boosting both international and local tourism in Ghana. With these exploits by our various national teams, it naturally draws in some attention of the passionate followers who come over to so our talent and help take them abroad. The more they come, with or without success, they rack some bills at our hotels, restaurants and tourist sites. If they like it here, there is every chance that they would come again. The Ghanaian Hospitality is positive energy everywhere. Their forex spend is important to our forex reserve which is key to our GDP.
On the local scene, it gets even better. There are 18 Premier League clubs and as many as 48 Division One League clubs who travel across the country on matchdays and get accommodated in our various hotels. I wonder how these hotels who benefit from close to 40 weeks of weekend slots in-season and another 6 weeks of pre-season slots are coping right now. That revenue has disappeared from their books. That revenue could be a gamechanger to a particular hotels revenue streams and in the area of expansion and the creation of more jobs if they were being patronized. And oh, the tax man regularly pays a visit to these hotels as well you know.
There are 18 Premier League clubs and as many as 48 Division One League clubs who travel across the country on matchdays. These clubs sometimes rely on the services of transport companies to get their teams around for close to 40 weeks of weekend slots in-season and another 6 weeks of pre-season slots. Beyond the clubs, as many fans accompany their teams back and forth on these trips. This goes a long way in providing much needed revenue for these companies and also ensures a good sustainability project. With football being played literally around the clock on, much needed revenue is assured which in turns provide employment, decent spending power on all manner of services and a healthy business for the economy. This cannot be overlooked as it feeds strongly into the Gross Domestic Product and Per capita income conversations.
BRANDING & ADVERTISING
Brand association and sporting connectivity is impossible to overlook these days. Huge global entities look at football to project their brands and make some huge profits. The Nikes, Reeboks, Adidas, Pumas, the beverages, financial entities and more attach their brands to football to project them as they are assured of huge eyeballs on a consistent basis. When these brands are doing well and their profit margin increases through sales, they are more likely to produce more, thereby hiring more people and again taking the burden away from government to provide jobs. Again, with their profit margins on the increase, they pay huge taxes to governments who use them to develop the state. There are obviously other options for brand association but none comes closer to sports and how quickly the numbers spiral. With jobs being created and with wages guaranteed, peoples spending power improves which in turn positively impacts the economy. Higher and decent standards of living helps the human mind emotionally and with output from staff most often on the increase. This cannot be overlooked.
CREATIVE ARTS INDUSTRY
Here in Ghana, Legon Cities Football Club and Kotoko in the past readily come to mind. Our artists have been given huge platforms to sell themselves and demonstrate their artistry. By these opportunities on matchdays, they connect with their bases and show the world what they can do. Opportunities and other gigs find their way to them from this medium. They make some good money, spend some good money, others benefit from their spend as retailers in all kinds of services also benefit from their work.
Football activity all year rounds means business to the financial sector. When deals are done, both on and off the pitch they are facilitated by this sector. Our funds end up in these entities who trade with them. Our funds and assets are used for collateral for loans, while revenue from our talents all over the globe are traded through this same sector. They largely help in keeping them afloat as the transactions are huge both on the domestic and international fronts. These banks benefit from charges on transactions which are most often overlooked. That clearly adds up to their profit margins that helps in the payment of good salaries and improves the standing of the banks and the financial welfare of the society at large. The government is happy to see this chain as it means an increase in taxes, wealth creation and employment. Think about that.
Has anyone per chance counted the number of betting companies on their streets and what happens in there? Well, this it. People from all walks of lives are making huge revenue from the actors on the pitch and not just for emotional satisfaction as was the case in the past. These days, people’s income are being inflated by their wins on football games and Ghana is not an exception. They win sums of money that these footballers can only sometime dream off. What is the spill over effect? Again, there is the employment conversation, the tax conversation, the income conversation and the construction conversation with these betting companies on a massive expansion drive all over the country. These companies are sponsoring the football clubs and paying good money for that translating into decent income for the players. There is the tax component from the companies themselves and from the spend of staff and players alike which is massive economic booster.
In concluding from the above inferences, sports and its relationship to the GDP of a country like Ghana cannot be overlooked. I am sure Dr Abbey and his team would help with the figures. This is something government cannot overlook and its my belief that a lot more attention and importance would be placed on the football industry like the Kenyans have done with Athletics as the Egyptians, Nigerians and several African countries have done with football.
The writer Kwame Dwomoh-Agyemang is with the Sports Team at Imax Group (Max FM/Maximum FM/Max TV/StarTimes) and also serves as the Communications Director of Legon Cities Football Club and an Adjunct Communications Lecturer at the Pentecost and Knutsford Universities.