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18.11.2005 Sports News

Premiership and ‘match-fixing’

By Statesman
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IN every competition, there are always rules and regulations to ensure that the contest is free and fair and also devoid of fraud. For, if such rules and regulations are strictly applied, there would always be healthy competition and the outcome would be accepted by both winners and losers.

In competitive sports, it's also common knowledge that the rowdy behaviour of fans can almost always be traced to poor or biased officiating arising out of underhand dealings or the desire of a contestant to seek an unfair advantage.

The 2005 GT Premiership that ended Sunday with Asante Kotoko taking the first position and Hearts of Oak coming second, like previous competitions, has not been spared the scourge of match fixing allegations and counter allegations. Whilst Hearts are accusing Kotoko of having “fixed” their 29th week match against Real Tamale United (RTU) in Tamale, Kotoko are also alleging that Hearts also fixed their 26th week fixture against Hearts of Lions at Kpando. Both clubs have gone further to proclaim that they have in their possession “recorded tapes” to authenticate their allegations.

This, therefore, is the serious situation in which the Ghana Football Association (GFA) finds itself. And the nation's soccer organising body has a big job on its hands to get to the bottom of the matter, having already crowned Kotoko as the league leaders with pomp and circumstance.

The acting GFA Chairman, Kwasi Nyantakyi, reportedly told GNA Sports: “We are taking the allegations very seriously and we plan to deal with them with the maximum significance they deserve.”

He further stated that the GFA was committed “to pursue the issue to its logical conclusion in its quest to arrive at the truth and reprimand the delinquents or endorse the just-ended season as a very successful one.”

The GFA boss added: “Times are worrying but it is needless for anyone to panic. We are very committed to getting to the bottom of the problem, so we can punish the offenders or vindicate the clean nature of the league.”

With these words of assurance from the FA Chairman, one would strongly hope the truth would be unearthed and the culprits punished in accordance with the rules of the contest.

But the question is: why all these accusations and counter accusations, especially between the two most popular clubs in the country?

The answer is not far-fetched! For, as already stated, competitions are expected to be fairly organised so as to produce credible winners. But when there are allegations of unfair advantage by other competitors, there is the need to ensure that investigations are conducted and the offenders dealt with in accordance with the rules and regulations governing the contest.

Tracing the over 40-year history of Ghana's league system, the problem of match-fixing is no news to some of us. It always happens close to the end of each season, most especially when top clubs finish neck-and-neck, as was the case this season.

There have even been league seasons when “cricket scores” were recorded at a time when the two clubs were at par and had the same points and goal aggregates in the league table. Match-fixing has always been the preserve of ambitious league leaders, relegation threatened clubs and the “safe zone” teams. Frankly, so enticing are the huge “brown envelopes” that cash-strapped clubs, needing funds to pay debts and bonuses, just can't resist such big offers.

However, going through the history of past seasons, one would unmistakably discover that the worst offenders are usually the very big clubs like Kotoko and Hearts.

Rumours of match-fixing are very prevalent not only in the Premiership but also in the lower divisions. Each season has its own tales of match fixing and the various methods deployed. Some of the clubs even pay losing bonuses to either club officials or players to achieve their diabolical aim.

Of course, the Kotoko/Hearts allegations are unique. They are unique in the sense that, as traditional rivals, both clubs have always been at each others' throats. And no wonder they are seriously involved in throwing mud at each other, a development that does not in any way help the growth of the game in Ghana.

However, with the GFA Disciplinary Committee making every effort to get to the bottom of these allegations, as promised by Mr Nyantakyi, this columnist would reserve further comments in order not to prejudice the matter. But when all is said and done, the GT Premiership has run smoothly, despite frequent re-scheduling to give way for World Cup qualifiers and other continental club matches. The Professional League Board (PLB), under the chairmanship of Abrah-Appiah, needs commendation.

This columnist wishes to congratulate “Fabulous” Asante Kotoko for winning the coveted GT Cup. All the Premier clubs also deserve commendation for making the season very fruitful. And to the relegated clubs – Ebusua Dwarfs and Hotspurs – its better luck next season.

Whilst writing about the domestic soccer, I would like to commend the Black Stars for their marvellous display in their 3-1 victory over Saudi Arabia. They need more of such friendly games to prepare them adequately for the task ahead next year. Coach Ratomir Dujkovic, keep the spirit up. Till next week, that's the way it is!

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