By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
Under normal circumstances, we are supposed to be excited about the news of the Ghana Premier League getting a headline sponsor but a section of the populace, especially those in the creative space are receiving the news with such mixed feelings.
The Ghana Football Association has officially announced that international betting company; Betpawa is the new title sponsors of the Ghana Premier League (GPL).
The contract-signing ceremony held last week was witnessed by the President of the Ghana Football Association, Mr. Kurt Okraku and Mr. Eazi, the Nigerian musician and entrepreneur, who is a majority shareholder in the betting company.
What has become contentious is the involvement of the Nigerian music star, who is providing succour via a betting company to our top tier football league in relation to the ban on endorsement of Ghanaian entertainers of betting companies in Ghana.
GPL Needs Support
Betpawa coming in to offer financial support to the Premier League is refreshing news and most importantly, offers a big relief to the 18 clubs in the League. The sponsorship would obviously be a major boost to clubs going into the 2022-2023 season, considering the fact that, the last time the League had any form of title sponsorship was almost 5 years ago.
In 2018, Zylofon Cash agreed to sponsor the GPL in a $10million deal. However, the 5-year contract was abruptly canceled, leaving the League without a title sponsor for the past 3 seasons.
The lack of sponsorship for the League has leveled some financial burden on the teams, which results in the low levels of remuneration for the players – a situation that has, over the seasons led to the exodus of the League’s finest players to foreign leagues.
The desperation causes some of the brilliant players to move to countries like Libya, Sudan and Tanzania among others – which arguably have ‘weaker’ leagues as compared to the GPL.
Ban on Celebrity Endorsement
In 2020, the Gaming Commission of Ghana banned betting companies from using celebrities in their advertisement or as ambassadors. The decision, according to the Commission, was due to the increasing number of celebrities endorsing betting companies – an action they say, could lure young fans into gambling.
The Commission released what it called, Guidelines on Advertisement, using its supervisory mandate drawn from Section 3 (2) (g) of the Gaming Act, 2006 (Act 271). In the Guidelines, it states – “Operators shall not use celebrities in their advertisements to entice the general public to gamble.”
That directive meant that, betting company, Bet Planet, had to abrogate its contract with the likes of Nadia Buari, Wendy Shay, Jackie Appiah, Moesha Bodoung, Salma Mumin, Selly Mumin, Selly Gally, Zynell Zuh, Sandra Ankobiah, Lilwin and KiDi. Others were Shatta Wale, Efya, DKB, Kuami Eugene, Gloria Sarfo, and Beverly Afaglo.
Considering the sponsorship of the GPL by a company somewhat owned by a celebrity raises some eyebrows.
In the Gaming Commissions’ Guidelines on Advertisement, General Guidelines, Number vii – it says Operators must use celebrities in their advertisements to entice the general public to gamble but here is Mr. Eazi, who is a full-blown celebrity and actually sponsoring the entire league; an act which goes way beyond just advertising. The entertainer is actually using his influence to invest in a football league in Ghana.
The Guidelines did not specific the origin of the celebrity, so, it covers all celebrities from all over the world.
It therefore makes little or no sense that; the Gaming Commission would allow a celebrity, known to own a betting company to sponsor the topmost footballing league in the entire country, yet, places a restriction on Ghanaian celebrities endorsing similar betting companies. Incredible!
Number xii of the Guidelines did not state specifically where the advertisements should be exhibited; whether free-to air, pay TV or satellite TV. It presents a general statement; yet, betting companies using celebrities for advertisements inundate DStv, a Sub-Saharan direct broadcast satellite service owned by South African-owned Multichoice.
DStv is popular in Ghana for its showcase of various football matches in various European leagues and tournaments and there’s a multitude of homes and football fanatics who invest their interest in the channel. It’s a fact that the interest in foreign football trumps that of the local league and betting has become a mainstay for these fans over the years.
The argument of the excessive use of celebrities in betting adverts and the showcase on TV sounds absurd, considering the inundation of celebrity endorsements on satellite TV and the number of youngsters who watch and bet on these matches religiously.
It is highly unfair to implement such a blanket directive that permits other celebrities to endorse betting companies on channels that are accessible to many but restrict others. It makes no sense anymore!
Speak Up & Test the Law
One of the biggest and guaranteed revenue-generating points for celebrities is endorsement deal. Take that away from them and you take away a huge source of their livelihood and ability to sustain their business, as it should.
The Gaming Commission has no issue enriching other celebrities from other countries but have an issue with Ghanaian celebrities doing their duties as brand influencers and being paid. Being paid and letting that money stay in the economy.
Some of the Ghanaian celebrities who have been affected by this ridiculous guideline by the Gaming Commission have spoken up against it but not loud enough. They now need to exert some urgency and energy in their protestation against the ban.
It is also imperative they speak with a unifying voice and not counter each other unnecessarily. A unified force can hardly be ignored and rejected. They must apply pressure!
Lastly, these artistes are seeing their bread being taken away from them unfairly. They must test the law, especially when there are so many loopholes in the Guidelines from the Gaming Commission.