Accra (AFP) – Ghana on Thursday said it would dissolve the country’s football association after explosive revelations of bribe-taking by referees and kickbacks to top officials that have shocked the football-mad nation.
Information minister Mustapha Abdul-Hamid said the government had “decided to take immediate steps to have the GFA (Ghana Football Association) dissolved” because of the “widespread nature of the apparent rot”.
The GFA had earlier pledged to tackle corruption in the wake of a long-awaited undercover documentary unveiled in Accra on Wednesday night, just over a week before the start of the World Cup finals.
Hidden camera footage purportedly showed referees taking as little as $100 (85 euros) each to rig matches.
It further alleged that GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi — a senior member of world governing body FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) — requested $11 million from reporters posing as investors to secure government contracts.
He also allegedly tried to profit personally from a $5 million-a-year, five-year sponsorship deal with the GFA in what the expose said was a “clear breach” of ethics.
The information minister said the government, which has pledged to cut corruption in the country, was “shocked and outraged” at the claims.
The documentary “exposes gross malfunctioning of the Ghana Football Association characterised by widespread fraud, corruption and bribery”, he said in a statement.
The conduct of all GFA officials and the suspended director-general of the National Sports Authority, Robert Sarfo Mensah, was referred to police for further investigation and any “appropriate action”, he added.
Provisional measures will be put in place to run the sport in Ghana until a new body is formed. CAF and FIFA will be kept informed, he said.
“Government will see to it that the necessary reforms are urgently undertaken to sanitise football administration in the country,” the minister stated.
– ‘No cover-up’ –
The GFA said it had not seen the documentary, which has sparked concerns about media freedom in Ghana after the journalist responsible received death threats.
But it said in a statement: “We view the allegations circulating in the media very seriously and would wish to take immediate steps to address them.”
It added: “The GFA wishes to place on record that, there will be no attempt of a cover-up or shield any of our members caught in alleged acts of corruption.
“The GFA wishes to assure all that as an institution it does not condone any manner of corrupt practices.”
The governing body said it had previously acted swiftly against claims of match-fixing.
In 2014, Britain’s Channel 4 television and the Daily Telegraph newspaper claimed Nyantakyi agreed a $170,000-deal for Ghana’s national side to play in a friendly organised by match fixers.
Nyantakyi denied signing any contract.
– ‘Wake-up call’ –
Ghana’s senior men’s team, the Black Stars, have not qualified for the World Cup finals in Russia, which include two teams from West Africa; Nigeria and Senegal.
At the last tournament in Brazil in 2014, Ghana’s previous government chartered a plane to send more than $3 million in cash to players in a row over appearance fees.
That decision caused a scandal back home as the country struggled with spiralling inflation, a yawning budget deficit and depreciating currency.
Diplomats, lawmakers, government ministers and members of the public packed a conference centre in Accra to watch the first screening of the two-hour documentary on Wednesday.
Football fan Simon Gyamfi said afterwards it was a “wake-up call” for the national game, adding: “I hope it will lead to a total clean-up in Ghanaian football.
“There is so much corruption in the system… The entire Ghana FA executive must be scrapped. What we have just seen is a total disgrace to the beautiful game.”
The documentary is the work of secretive investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who has previously exposed graft in the judiciary.
After watching an advance private screening, President Nana Akufo-Addo complained to police that Nyantakyi had “used the president’s name and office fraudulently”.
Nyantakyi was then questioned and released pending further investigation.
A lawmaker from Akufo-Addo’s ruling New Patriotic Party has since accused Anas of being corrupt and insinuated he should be killed and his colleagues beaten up.