It’s well documented that football is the most popular sports in Ghana. But over the past few years, Basketball seems to be growing at a rate one could best describe as rapid.
The game is increasingly becoming popular especially among the youth while its patronage is assuming unimaginable proportions.
As a keen follower of the game in the country in recent years, I have come to the firm conviction that it’s time the government of Ghana and the corporate world pay little attention to the growth and development of the game.
I must say however that my argument embraces the so-called ‘lesser known’ sports such as Volleyball, Tennis, Hockey, Badminton and Swimming amongst others which have been neglected at the expense of football.
But the focal point of this commentary is basketball but a digression is necessary to make the invaluable point that Government with support from Corporate Institutions are responsible for the advancement of sport.
There are sufficient examples to prove that success in sport is directly related to the input of Governments, which is a direct consequence of a policy of inclusiveness of the other so-called ‘lesser known sports.
Government has for instance spent over ₵40 million cedis in the past five years on the Black Stars in search of winning the African Cup of Nations crown which has remained elusive since 1982 in Libya.
Just 5% of such a gargantuan figure if channeled into basketball could go a long way to transform the sport which in the short to long-term will yield positive dividends in areas of success, employment and setting up a platform of growth for talented players.
Sponsorships, marketing and exposure of the game will not only lead to a vast improvements and building of facilities for the sport, but will help hone and develop the talents in the country.
A competitive national league will also produce great players for the international market as teams in NBA and Europe can’t wait to grab promising players unto their fold.
And it will come at very good prices for the teams and officials who own these players. It will also without doubt trickle down into government coffers and a recycle into honing more of such talents for the future.
Another area where the Government can really intervene is to see to the development of the game in schools by providing the facilities and resources to empower them.
Government support also means a renewed confidence in the sport by the corporate world whose sponsorship and financial commitment cannot be discounted. The government obviously cannot do it all on their own, but they should be the first in queue to show commitment and that will easily bring the business gurus with their expertise on board.
The business figures of salary, contracts and endorsement of NBA players such as Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwight Howard or Dwayne Wade are mind-boggling and staggering.
According to the Oklahoma City of Chamber of Commerce, for example, every Oklahoma City Thunder game pours $1.3 million into the American economy.
As The Atlantic recently pointed out, Spurs games generate $95 million for San Antonio, the Portland Trail Blazers made a $2 billion local impact between 1970 and 2009, according to a study, and in 2010 the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce estimated that the Grizzlies earned an annual economic impact of $223 million.
According Forbes in 2012, Lebron James is the highest paid NBA player with a total earning of $53 million, with $13 million going into salary and winning as well as $40 million on endorsement from giants companies like Nike, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, State Farm.
Even Tim Duncan who is ranked 10th on the table, rakes in $19.1 million with $2 million serving as endorsements.
The underline factor is that Basketball is a huge source of revenue generation not just for the players but also everyone who has a stake in it right from the coaches, officials, agents, sponsors right up to the state making gains for the national economy.
Such funds if allocated could help in shaping the dreams and aspirations of hungry and talented players.
In order to bring in international coaches and expert to inculcate modern techniques into the players and officials, a lot of financial strength are needed to pull it off. The international coaches can even help in acquiring partnerships with some foreign teams or associations aimed at development the sport in Ghana.
Most Basketball teams across Africa are owned by multinational companies who are financially endowed to put the players and officials on their payroll.
In Nigeria for instance, most basketball teams are owned by Banks who use the platform to market their products too. The success of basketball in Angola was achieved on the wings of oil giants like Petro Athletico who also own a football side which is also successful. So other sponsorship commitments cannot hinder a further extension into another sport for the many companies who sponsor especially football.
That is why the commitment of government and multinational companies cannot be underestimated.
The current non-governmental support nearly crippled the sport until I heard of an Accra-based event company Rite Multimedia coming into the picture.
I’ve had the chance to watch some of their basketball events and I believe their agenda of developing and promoting the game if given the necessary governmental boost will go a long way to enhance the sport.
The numbers that I’ve seen at the Aviation Social Centre and the El-Wak stadium in the past gives me sufficient hope and belief that the game is extremely popular among the youth and therefore require all the support needed to make the sport successful in Ghana.
It’s fair to say however that the likes of Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Nestle Ghana Limited, Indomie Noodles and Tigo have done their bit to support the game financially but lots more need to come on board to give hope to the younger generation.
I am tempted to believe that if private companies like Rite Multimedia and others are continuously overlooked by government and lack financial muscle to continue their developmental agenda, their desire and commitments will come crashing.
Support in terms of finance and logistics will without a shred of doubt in my mind re-ignites the passion and belief of many that basketball can change the economy of Ghana even more than football ever has. I am not too sure it will be far-fetched with that sense of optimism.
The game’s excitement, intensity and high uncertainty also offers big corporate organizations huge platforms to market their products more than one can ever imagined.
Media involvement and subsequent telecast of live games, even recorded ones is a platform on which any business outfit cannot underestimate. This means a big market for the Ghanaian Basketball fraternity to expose and market the game to an international audience.
There is so much rhetorics in this dear country of ours and I believe it’s time pragmatic steps are taken to address the core issues.
The various basketball brands in the country have so far generated employment opportunities and source of income for players, referees and designers amongst others.
For instance a number quite a number of players been drafted into the security agencies especially CEPS, Police and Prisons Service due to their affiliation with the game Ghana.
No lack of talents
Ghana is a nation blessed with amazing talents scattered across the various sporting disciplines and basketball is no exception.
The past few years has seen tremendous improvement in the game and proud to say that for the first time in so many years, the country’s Under-18 team earned qualification to play in the 2012 Afro Basketball Championship in Mozambique.
Even though the team placed eight, it was a great start in my humble opinion hoping that the years ahead will bring many good tidings.
The famous Sprite Ball Championship (mainly for High School students) has produced many, many talents who have earned educational scholarships to colleges in the United States of America and powerful basketball nations like Serbia.
With just a relative financial support from few organizations, the sport has chalked some successes and therefore strongly believes that if efforts are channeled to the sport, it will be a walk in the park for greatness.
I arrest my case.
By: Patrick Akoto