After enduring multiple years without a headline sponsor, the Ghanaian Premier League finally has a sponsor.
The Ghanaian Football Federation announced in August that it had signed a three-year $6 million deal with betting heavyweights, betPawa, sparking mixed reactions from football fans and stakeholders across the country.
While some celebrated the news, many questioned why the FA would go into partnership with a betting company, particularly given the recent spate of match-fixing scandals in the country.
The GFA, unsurprisingly, launched a stout defence, maintaining that the sponsorship wouldn’t yield more betting malpractices.
But is that really correct? Is the persistent association between Ghanaian football and betting companies healthy for the development of the sport?
As recently as May 2022, the Ghanaian FA came down hard on the latest high-profile match-fixing perpetrators, demoting Ashante Gold and Inter Allies to the third division of Ghanaian football.
The FA also handed out big fines and suspensions to administrators, coaches and players involved in the scandal.
In the light of this, has it got to the point where betting companies should be banned from sponsoring football tournaments in the country?
Remember that the Women’s Premier League is also sponsored by a betting company, Betway.
Those calling for a ban opine that by dissociating itself completely from sports betting, the FA would be showing a no-tolerance policy to match-fixing.
And in contrast, by continuing to endorse betting companies, the GFA is sending out the message that it is OK to bet, thereby fostering the chances of addiction and malpractices.
As strong as these sentiments are, the FA is not exactly in a position to pick and choose sponsors.
Before betPawa, the league had been without a sponsor for three years.
Players were being owed salaries, our best footballers were leaving the country, pitches were ragged, and the general standard of the domestic game was poor.
The new sponsors will not change all of these things overnight, but Ghanaian football stakeholders can at least hope for better in the next few years- as long as the FA can nurture and develop the new relationship.
That is not given, considering how the previous headline sponsorship with Zylofon Cash ended!
To all those criticising the FA for signing these deals, perhaps they should reconsider their stance.
The betting companies are not exactly the problem. The issue lies with greedy football officials, players and fans who believe they can make quick money from online betting.
Many of the top betting companies in Ghana are actually quite responsible in their operations.
Betking, for example, are very thorough with their verification process in their bid to stamp out underage betting.
As explained in this Betking Ghana review, customers have to provide valid identity documents before they are granted full access to the site.
Rather than cutting off partnerships with betting companies, the GFA should invest in educating fans and officials on how to gamble responsibly.
The mentality of Ghanaians towards betting has got to change. They should be made to understand that sports betting is essentially a source of entertainment, rather than a means to make quick money.
Again, this mindset will not be developed overnight, but overtime with consistent and concerted campaigns purposefully targeted towards this goal.
By Mark Anderson