BY JOHN VIGAH
Ferocious attempts by former Premier League sides, Ashantigold SC and Inter Allies to have their demotions overturned, were crushed into smithereens last Wednesday.
This followed the decision of the Appeals Committee (AC) of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) to throw out ‘desperate’ petitions filed by the affected clubs.
The FA Disciplinary Committee (DC) on May 16 this year inflicted a triple whammy on the clubs – after finding, banning and booting them to the third tier of Ghana football, for bringing the beautiful game into disrepute.
The DC had found the clubs guilty of match manipulation in their 2020/21 Ghana Premier League Matchday 34 match in which AshantiGold won 7-0 at the Obuasi Len Clay Sports Stadium – with substitute Hashmin Musah deliberately banging home two own goals – ostensibly to spoil a fixed scoreline.
Upshot of that embarrassing game brought instant shame to Ghana football and made rave reviews on the global stage.
In its ruling on the matter, the AC stated that evidence available to it endorsed the decision reached by the DC, insisting that “the match was not played competitively or under competitive circumstances.”
Doubtless, the GFA, the Ghana Police Service (GPS) and all who played yeoman’s role in investigations that culminated in the mega ruling by the DC and AP, deserve a bouquet of orchids for the sterling work done. It did not come easy.
Match-fixing is a mortifying thing that must have no place in football, no matter what!
Nonetheless, the famous ruling appears to have shortchanged clubs that suffered unfairly as a result of the grievous sins of AshantiGold and Inter Allies.
Truth is that, had the scandalised clubs been punished earlier (20/21 season), then elite team Cape Coast Ebusua Dwarfs and the Nungua-based Division One side – Danbort FC, would not have suffered the drop in their respective tiers.
Dwarfs finished the league in 16th position in an 18-club league that saw three teams promoted to the top flight.
Campaigning in the Division One Zone 3 league, Danbort also finished 13th in a 16-club race that had Amidaus Professionals expelled (after failing to honour a seventh consecutive league game) and Phar Rangers banned by FIFA for infractions on Player Transfer.
Had Inter Allies, which campaigns in Zone 3, been relegated to the third tier (Division Two League) that season, as is the case now per the DC ruling, Danbort would have been saved.
Many experts of the game had badgered on the Ghana FA to expedite investigations into the scandal and come up with a ruling before the start of the 2021/2022 season. But the FA thought otherwise, maintaining that the issue needed ample time to enable it conduct a snake-pit inquisition.
Now that the long wait is over, it is the strongest view of avid followers of football that the DC judgement should also take effect retrospectively.
And, indeed, such retrospective decisions are not new to football.
In November 30, 2016 for example, elite side Dreams FC were demoted to Division One, whilst Tema Youth got promoted to the top-flight, following the ruling by the DC of the GFA. The DC was forced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to hear the case after Tema Youth had petitioned the Switzerland-based body claiming justice was not delivered in two previous hearings by the DC.
CAS, therefore, ordered for case of the use of Cudjoe Mensah by Dreams FC to be re-examined with Tema Youth claiming the player was unqualified when the two sides clashed in a match that decided who played in the Premier League the previous season (2015).
Eventually, Dreams were held liable for the irregular registration of the player – and were duly punished even before the new season rolled off.
Back in 2006, Juventus were stripped of the 2004–05 title and were downgraded to last place in the 2005–06 championship for their role in a refereeing scandal known in Italy as the Calciopoli – that also resulted in fines and points deductions. Fiorentina and Lazio, who were also caught in the web, were relegated to Serie B.
The title was subsequently awarded to Internazionale, whilst relegated Messina had its Serie A status reinstated.
Grippingly, the Ghana FA is planning to stage a round-robin for three clubs (Liberty Professionals, Ebusua Dwarfs and Tamale City) – winner of which would replace AshantiGold in the 2022/2023 season. This is not proper because it would be highly unfair and unkind to clubs like Dwarfs and Danbort – who were made to suffer in a dented season through no fault of theirs.
Liberty, for instance, finished at the last-but-one spot on 40 points (in the 2020/2021 premiership) and wondered why they should be given any reprieve.
In the case of Tamale City, they were beaten 2-1 by Nsoatreman FC a couple of weeks ago, in a Zone 1 Division One play-off for promotion into the 2022-23 Ghana Premier League season. So, why give them another chance? Why would they eat their cake and have it again?
Danbort is suffering a similar fate.
Now, we are hearing the FA Executive Council (EC) has resolved to stage an all-play-all among three Division Two clubs (Na God FC, Agbogba FC and Port City/Abuakwa Susubiribi FC to determine the replacement for Inter Allies in Zone 3.
Again, this is absolutely unreasonable. Na God FC, in particular, barely a fortnight ago played Rences FC in a play-off for promotion into the Division One League (DOL) and lost 1-0; so why organise anything involving them again?
Why not include Danbort – whose position was affected by a scandal they knew nothing about, if anything at all? As it stands now, the Nungua side has been given a raw deal!
Indeed, Danbort were safe from the drop until the relegation of premier teams – Liberty Professionals and Inter Allies, back into the DOL Zone 3. So, originally, Danbort were not relegated at the end of the season.
As previously pointed out, Inter Allies per their filthy behaviour as now determined by the AC, should have been flushed into the third tier much earlier.
It is incumbent on the EC to, as a matter of urgency, retake a critical look at the situation and quickly come up with a great landmark decision that would put all controversies to a calm, permanent sleep.
The EC, unmistakably, is the highest decision-making body of the GFA and is composed of men of integrity who have the future of Ghana football at heart and should be expected to deliver justice.
So far, the GFA have been inundated with hordes of commendations as regards its solidity and firmness on the AshantiGold-Allies case, and must not do anything to damage the goodwill they are enjoying at the moment.
Indeed, let us handle this case with immense maturity so as to avoid any situation that could land our football in the legal walkway of FIFA.
Credit: John Vigah