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03.04.2004 Sports News

2004 League To Go One Round

By Graphic

When stakeholders in Ghana Football converge for the much-awaited Congress on April 15 and 16, they will be seeking a convention to allow for an abridged novelty league for the 2004 season.

This special motion is expected to be tabled by the Premier League clubs with support from their parent body, the Ghana League Clubs Association (GHALCA), as they see a two-round, 30-match per club competition in 2004 a doubtful possibility, mainly because of a heavy international calendar confronting the Ghana Football Association.

At the moment, however, GHALCA is lobbying powerful voices within Congress and other stakeholders, including the GFA Executive Council, on the mode of abridgement of the 2004 league.The country's football governing body was compelled by similar circumstances in 1977 to abridge the then division one league to a one-round competition to enable the Black Stars prepare adequately for the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations hosted and won by Ghana.

One format being discussed seeks to group the premiership clubs into northern and southern zones, which will comprise eight teams each. Under this mode, the top two sides from the two zones after seven matches will play on home and away basis to decide the overall champion. This model was inspired by the new league format currently being applied in Cameroun.

The last club in each zone will automatically be relegated to division one, while the loser of a match between the seventh-placed clubs at the zonal level will engage the third-placed club in the Division One middle League in a next play-off to determine which side plays in the premiership.

Another option being considered is the feasibility of ending the competition at a stage when conditions appear unfavourable for a completion, holding their sights on CAF's deadline for submission of representatives for the next continental competitions.Yet a one-round league has also been played up in the discussions of Ghana's soccer gurus.

Whichever mode sails through, GHALCA is also proposing May 2 for the start of the 2004 Premier League following the impracticability of the April 18 date earlier announced. The April 18 date, as it stands, is being haunted by an injunction on the league, courtesy private television network, Crystal TV's suit against the GFA for breach of contract over telecast of the premiership.

GFA Executive Council Chairman, Y. A. Ibrahim whose Real Sportive is now a premier club, told the Graphic Sports that the Premier League clubs have resolved to push for the motion due to the time-crisis facing the season. At a special meeting last week, he said, the members agreed to the proposal in view of the tight schedule of the football calendar.

And, granted it starts as scheduled, the league is bound to suffer from breaks and postponements due to international engagements of the national teams and clubs participating in continental competitions. Indeed, the Black Meteors have qualified for Athens as one of Africa's four teams for the Olympics.

Their qualification means they would be away for at least a greater part of August when the Games will be held. Mr Kudjoe Fianoo, Administrative Manager of GHALCA, also told the Graphic Sports that a subsequent meeting held last Monday placed a fair amount of attention on the Meteors' participation.

He said composition of the team for the tournament, whether to be dominated by home-based players or their foreign-based counterparts would affect how far the competition will travel.He, however, emphasised that either way, mid-week matches will dominate the league.

Also on the football calendar is the Black Stars' 2006 World Cup qualifiers which begin in June while Ghana's representatives in the CAF competitions are expected to take away some weekends from the tight league calendar. With these challenges staring at them, the premier league clubs and executive of GHALCA ruled out the orthodox 30-game for each club league involving 16 clubs, and have instead proposed a novelty competition to forestall the looming problem.

The decision was also taken in view of the time available for the submission of candidates for next year's CAF club competitions. Even before they reached the bridge, GHALCA members are praying that CAF wears a generous face again to grant Ghana a special concession to submit its candidates later than required.

Indeed, last year, CAF handed Ghana a concession to delay the submission of its representatives for this year's competitions.This season's start has been delayed particularly by the impact of court cases against the GFA. Four clubs separately caused the court to place an injunction on the play-off to decide the 16th club to play in the Premiership this year.

The match was played when they softened their stand. Just two weeks ago, this time at the instance of Crystal TV, the court again placed an injunction on the GFA restraining it from preparing for and organising the 2004 Premier League and any other league.

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