The Premier League Board (PLB) has delivered a rapier-cut riposte to Sports Minister Nii Lante Vanderpuye, slamming him as 'disappointing' and deliberately damaging the Ghana Premier League brand with his 'unfounded' claims.
The PLB, the body mandated to run Ghana's top-flight league, has been forced to to fact-filled response to the Minister following his damaging claims that the Ghana top-flight is unattractive and as result is unable to attract sponsors.
The body, which is made up of all the 16 clubs in the country, hit back by revealing that the Minister's office benefits directly from the league financially and should be the person protecting the brand.
Providing evidence to back their claim of a strong league, the PLB relied on facts to debunk the minister's claims implying he spoke about the league based on conjecture or on negative bias.
"Inasmuch as Nii Lantey Vanderpuije may have been expressing his opinion, such claims are unfounded as the facts on the ground sharply contradict the Minister’s statement," the statement released by the PLB on Sunday night read.
"What is even more disappointing is the fact that the incorrect statement comes from no less a person than the sector Minister, who is expected to promote and project the league to attract the necessary public and corporate support.
"The PLB finds it unfortunate that the sector Minister would ridicule the attractiveness of the Ghana Premier League (GPL) without giving any evidence to buttress his claim and also proceed to unjustifiably link the absence of a headline sponsor to his wrong claims of unattractiveness of the country’s top-flight league.
"The PLB wishes to put on record for the information of the Honourable Sports Minister that, the GPL is the most attractive sporting product in the country, in terms of organisation, quality, patronage and media coverage.
In truth, the Ghana league has no headline sponsor but has SuperSport as its television sponsor and the PLB argues that the absence of a sponsor cannot be used as an index to measure the attractiveness or otherwise of any competition in the world.
Providing the hardcore facts the PLB said the number of media accreditation application shows deep media and public interest as well as huge attendances and quality displayed by players this season shows the league his hugely attractive.
"As a matter of fact over 1000 journalists applied to cover the Ghana Premier League on over 500 media platforms showing the deep public interest in the product which leads to the overwhelming media interest in the competition, the PLB statement read.
"The PLB is wondering how the Minister of Sports could describe a product which trends positively on both traditional and new media every match day as unattractive?
"The fans are following the GPL because the quality of play is indeed very high with players like Mustapha Essuman and Cosmos Dauda of Hearts of Oak, Kotoko’s Dauda Mohammed, Aduana Stars striker Yahaya Mohammed, Liberty Professionals ace Latif Blessing, Wa All Stars goalkeeper Richard Ofori, Berekum Chelsea’s Saddick Adams, Techiman City’s Baba Mahama and others all providing the needed excitement.
"Indeed the attractive and exciting nature of the league is further buttressed by the fact that as at match day 24 of the on-going season, 21 Match day games had recorded either braces or hat ricks.
"The prestigious CNN World Goal of the Week award won by Aduana Stars’ Bright Adjei and the amazing goal scored by Dreams FC goalkeeper Philemon McCarthy lend further credence to the quality and excitement that the league generates.
"Only last Saturday in the 26th Week Premier League match between Ebusua Dwarfs and Bechem United in Cape Coast, Bechem's Asante Agyemang scored a world-class, wonder-goal which has gone viral on social media.
"The teeming fans who thronged the Tema Sports Stadium and the millions who followed the game through the media, will never forget the ecstasy that Hearts of Oak sparked with their famous 3-2 comeback win over Inter Allies. Fans of Ebusua Dwarfs, Techiman City, Aduana Stars, Berekum Chelsea, Medeama and others who ensure constant capacity crowds in their home games will surely be unhappy over the characterization of the league as unattractive.
"The Ghana Premier League, which the Minister describes as unattractive, this season recorded the highest ever gate revenue of Gh¢453,095 for a sporting activity in the history of the country when Hearts played Kotoko in Accra on a Monday.
"The PLB is proud to assert that a chunk of the revenue from the matches goes directly to the Sports Ministry via the National Sports Authority (NSA) to help maintain the stadium and to fund their activities. Part of the revenue also from matches of the league goes directly to government through the payment of VAT and NHIS from our gate takings. And for the records, this season alone, over 200, 000 Ghana Cedis have been paid by the Ghana Premier League to the state through VAT/NHIS taxes so far.
"The PLB wishes to state that the Minister is utterly wrong that the GPL is without a sponsor. Indeed the GPL currently has international broadcaster SuperSport as its proud broadcast sponsor. In addition to this, a good number of Premier League clubs have also secured their private sponsorships through their own efforts.
"While the Minister is clearly wrong on the absence of a sponsor for the league, let’s also state that the absence of a sponsor for a league anywhere in the world is not the best measure of the quality or attractiveness of a competition. In the same vein, there are many factors which inform the acquisition of sports sponsorship. These factors include, but not limited to the size and performance of a country's economy.
"The PLB would therefore like to register our displeasure over the Minister’s pronouncements which go a long way in denigrating the efforts of club owners who spend millions of cedis of their own money to nurture and develop talents for the benefit of the national teams, to entertain fans.
"The PLB wishes to commend the efforts of club owners in the country as they spend their personal wealth to support the growth and development of our league and we wish to encourage them to continue.
"At a time that we are all putting in all efforts to secure a headline sponsor for the league, such unfortunate and unfair comments go a long way in damaging the brand of the GPL thus hurting our chances of getting corporate bodies to support the league.
"The Sports Ministry benefits directly when our league thrives so we expect the sector Minister to be the torchbearer of the GPL as our successes are directly linked to the successes of the ministry.
"As the torchbearer of Sports development in Ghana, the PLB expects the Minister's public comments to inspire investor-confidence in football and sports in general.
"While we are not averse to criticism, we wish to state that our doors are always open for the Sports Minister to share ideas and crosscheck facts before he goes public. We believe that we are partners with the Sports Ministry in the development of the game and such unfounded comments go a long way in hurting our efforts of growing the league from strength to strength."