The much touted green book launched by Vice-President John Maham may perhaps be an understatement of government achievements over the past three years. The lack of adequate reference to the successes of the National Sports Authority could be one of the clearest indications. The gory 2001 May 9 incident provided the opportunity for national reflection on the character and condition of sport administration in the country.
It betrayed the bankruptcy of visionary leadership and stirred up public demand for radical changes in sports administration in the country The Okudzeto Commission Report made laudable recommendations to forestall the re-occurrence of the May 9 incidence, but just like most recommendations in Ghana, the report only gathered dust on the shelves. The evidence was clear and incisive. The status quo persisted. The overcrowding and other breaches that led to deaths were as a result of collapse of administrative discipline and total negligence of safety and security standards. Insecurity, violence, hooliganism, pilfering, and marijuana smoking in our stadiums had become the patron saints of our sports culture.
The nation paid dearly for that. In February 2009 ? almost eight solid years after the May 9 disaster - four football fans lost their lives in another Hearts and Kotoko duel in Kumasi. The Government set up the Marshal Belieb Committee. Its report findings and recommendations were almost as good as that of the Okudzeto Committee. The missing link was dedicated, sincere, responsible and visionary leadership which was later found in the person of Mr Wolanyo Agrah who took over as Chief Executive Officer of the National Sports Authority (NSA). Mr Agrah ensured a successful implementation of the Marshal Belieb Committee Report. The results were impressive. There has not been a single incidence of violence in any Hearts/Kotoko encounter.
Security and safety standards have improved in our stadiums. The peaceful, orderly, exciting and secure outcome of the last duel between Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak which attracted a turn out of 38,000 spectators has become the best face of sports culture for past three years. Mr Agra's leadership of the NSA has improved the standards of football. Through personal supervision, the ugly image of grassless pitches throughout the country has found its place in the past. Since the CAN 2008 tournament, the condition of pitches throughout the country has been maintained to very high standards. The all-year-on greenness of our pitches is a standing tribute to competent leadership. That kind of competent leadership has expressed itself in several breath taking accomplishments. Mr Agra's enthusiasm and love for sport development is outstanding.
By his personal initiative, he secured a $2million facility from Anglo-Gold Ashanti for the construction of several multi-purpose sport courts throughout the country. Most of the courts have now been completed. The court on the campus of University of Ghana has greatly revived interest in sport activity amongst the student body. The ultra modern gymnasium in the Accra Sports Stadium donated by the Government of Japan also tells the story of experienced and dedicated leadership equipped with diplomatic acumen. Sports diversification has been identified as the key factor in creating opportunities for sporting career for the youth. However, successive governments have paid only lip-service to the matter.
The past three years have seen the NSA showing practical commitment to the development of the so-called lesser known sports. It has given them an unprecedented level of recognition. NSA has ensured an unprecedented level of participation of many of the lesser known sports in several local, regional and international competitions amidst a tight national sport budget and resultant financial challenges. The records, however, show a steep rise in the number of awards and medals chalked by Ghanaian athletes over the past three years. The National Sports Festival, which was the pivot of sports development, had been abandoned for seven years. Under Mr Agra's leadership, it was re-instituted as the National Unity Games and was successfully held from 20th to 26th July 2011 for the first time in seven years with as much as twenty sport disciplines participating.
Before only a mere seven disciplines participated. This could not have been achieved without a well motivated work force. The NSA leadership ensured effective migration of all the staff into the single spine salary structure. Also, an administrative anomaly that ensured that staff who were due for promotion as far back as 2003 was effectively addressed. This among other things has ensured good working relations, industrial harmony and reduction in corrupt practices. With improved conditions of staff, administrative discipline and supervision, the era were the National Sports Council wore the filthy image of a visa fraud centre has forever been covered by the smoke and dust of history.
Under the leadership of Mr Agra, the NSA responded positively to the need for a review of the legislative framework of sports administration and the need to institutionalise harmonious and effective working relations with national sports association by the passing of the new national sports law. There will be no need to talk of the successful holding of the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) elections; and the effective and amicable manner the GOC crises were resolved or many other achievements that may not find space here because the recent All African Games says it all. The crown of all the achievement was the 2011 All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique, with Team Ghana coming home with 20 medals. Unprecedented achievements! In the 2012 State of Nation Address, President J.E.A. Mills - himself a veteran sports administrator and sportsman - remarked that the 2011 Maputo games was ?Ghana's greatest success ever in the history of the All African Games.
The author is the Co-ordinator of the Sports for Youth Employment Initiative, a social network dedicated to the promotion of lesser known sports for the creation of sustainable livelihoods for the youth.