(By Richard Avornyotse, GNA Sports Desk)
Accra, Jan 21, GNA - There is a growing anxiety among sports lovers about the delay in pushing the new Sports Bill, which had been on the drawing board for upward of two years to parliament for consideration and appropriate action.
While one would understand that intensive consultations and research, which are relevant prerequisites for a thorough drafting of the bill warranted a couple of months' hold up, it is rather very difficult to decipher the circumstances that have chilled action from the sports ministry for so long.
It is believed that the delay in forwarding the bill to the legislative house for action has multiplied the snag that lack of funds has posed to people, who otherwise, would have had the support of corporate organizations to carry through programmes that would help accelerate the development of sports in the country.
While there are many organizations willing to put their money into sports sponsorship, the decision makers of such companies often complain about the unfavourable terrain, which does not guarantee them enough benefits from such ventures.
They contend that though the statutes permit a tax rebate commensurate with the companies' contributions, it is so cumbersome or rather impossible to reap any tax waiver regardless of how much a business organization injects into sports development. Based on the arguments of those who have the money to aid the development of sports in the country, it becomes imperative to pinch those in charge of drafting and forwarding the new sports bill, which singular suggestion remains the legacy that Honourable Edward Osei Kwaku, the former sports minister has left for the benefit of posterity.
A further delay of the bill will only deepen the level of mediocrity in the performance of local athletes who are denied opportunities to prepare adequately for international competitions due to "lack of funds."
The "no funds" syndrome will continue and the hopes of Ghanaian competitors will fade away, not because they lack the cast of champions, but because they lack the cash to undertake pre event training schedules that would help them peak at the correct time.
Even those with the shortest of memories would remember how our teams, particularly the Black Bombers failed to glitter at last year's All Africa Games and the reason Eddie Duplan, chairman of the Ghana Amateur Boxing Association promptly proffered was lack of a training tour to toughen the boys for the challenge in Abuja.
And remembering that the Abuja tournament was the African eliminator for this year's Athens Olympic Games and that no Ghanaian boxer has qualified so far demands that steps are taken to entice private capital into sports as a matter of urgency.
Government has often complained about the volume of the sports budget and the ministry has time and again bemoaned the inadequate budgetary allocation to the sector, saying that the allocation is only enough to pay for services and emoluments of staff.
It is sad that the once all-important Mobil Athletics Championship is off the sports calendar because Mobil had withdrawn its support. It however remains one of the biggest sporting events in Nigeria to date.
We believe that when the topography becomes friendly enough to allow a beneficial participation, there will be many willing partners to release enough money in support of developmental activities to the advantage of our sportsmen and women in particular and the nation in general.
We anticipate the rebirth of monthly and or weekly competitions in many disciplines such as table tennis, lawn tennis, badminton, karate do, basketball and handball just to mention a few.
We foresee regular "close and open" competitions under the auspices of corporate organization that will kit competitors and offer them tokens by way of prizes to whip up enthusiasm and spur the youth back into massive participation in sports.
It is only when such opportunities are recreated for the youth that we shall witness accelerated development in sports and a vault to the ranks of African heavyweights such as Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa. It is only when private capital is enticed into sports development and promotion, to supplement and complement government efforts and funds, that Ghana sports would be rejuvenated to claim prime positions in disciplines such as boxing and table tennis, which she had ruled before on the African continent.
The only way to get private money back into sports development on a large scale is to hasten action on the new Sports Bill, while ensuring that bureaucratic bottlenecks that had hampered the redemption of tax rebates are removed pronto.
Sports thrive on capital and the earlier the new sports bill is passed with new spices that would whet the appetite of corporate organizations and entice them to dine with the various sporting associations and idealistic individuals and give Ghana sports a push up the better.
Ghana deserves to be counted among the elites on the African continent when it comes to sports and the mantle lies with Honourable Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, the sector minister, Honourable Rashid Bawa, the minister of State for the sector, with support from Mr Joe Aggrey, the deputy sector minister.
And of course, the parliamentary select committee on sports must be counted among the honourable facilitators and it will be an honourable achievement to push the bill through.