Ghanaian Football and Sustainability: The Value or Importance of Player Sales Development

By April 23, 2023 Articles

Football is one of the most popular sports in Ghana, and the Ghanaian Premier League is the top professional football league in the country. However, the financial realities of Ghanaian football are vastly different from those of the top European leagues. In the English Premier League, for example, staying in the top flight is crucial for financial sustainability, with the league’s revenue reaching a record high of £5.2 billion in the 2019/20 season. In contrast, in Ghana, the rewards are often far greater from the sale of players, with the average transfer fee for a Ghanaian player being around $150,000.

For Ghanaian football clubs, the primary source of revenue is typically the sale of players to European clubs. This is due in part to the relatively low revenues generated by the domestic league. According to the Ghana Football Association, the average attendance for matches in the 2019/20 season was just over 2,000 fans per game. By comparison, the English Premier League regularly attracts crowds of tens of thousands of fans per game, leading to greater revenue from ticket sales and merchandise.

Despite the financial challenges faced by Ghanaian clubs, the country has produced many talented footballers who have gone on to have successful careers in Europe. One example is Michael Essien, who began his career with Liberty Professionals in Ghana before moving to French club Bastia and later signing with Chelsea in the English Premier League. Essien’s transfer fee alone was reportedly around €38 million.

The sale of players like Essien provides a significant injection of revenue for Ghanaian clubs, but it also has wider implications for the sustainability of football in the country. By investing in youth development and scouting talent from a young age, clubs can cultivate talented players who can eventually be sold for substantial fees. This can help to sustain the clubs financially and also provide opportunities for young players to pursue careers in professional football.

The sale of players like Essien provides a significant injection of revenue for Ghanaian clubs, but it also has wider implications for the sustainability of football in the country. By investing in youth development and scouting talent from a young age, clubs can cultivate talented players who can eventually be sold for substantial fees. This can help to sustain the clubs financially and also provide opportunities for young players to pursue careers in professional football.

However, the focus on player sales also has some downsides. For one, it can create a culture of short-term thinking, where clubs prioritize the sale of players over long-term investment in infrastructure and youth development. In a recent conversation with a Ghanaian Executive, he stated to me, “Clubs work hard to develop a player to which he will be sold. There’s not a lot money in circulation i.e. prize money or sponsorship. So to be sustainable, clubs don’t have many options. We don’t have the economic power of some of the clubs/countries in North Africa or South Africa. And with the turnover of players, the fans don’t see the value in attending games.” That conversation went onto branding, and leads us back to the average attendance for matches and merchandise.

Despite these challenges, the sale of players remains a crucial part of Ghanaian football’s financial ecosystem. The rewards for producing top-level talent are significant, and the success of players like Essien and others has helped to put Ghanaian football on the map. However, it’s important to remember that sustainability in football is not just about making money – it’s also about investing in youth development, providing opportunities for young players, and building a strong foundation for the future of the sport in Ghana.

In a recent article by CIES, they listed 10 of the most valuable academies in the world.

  1. Benfica – 670m euros
  2. Chelsea – 630m euros
  3. Barcelona – 580m euros
  4. Ajax – 555m euros
  5. Manchester City – 510m euros
  6. PSG – 490m euros
  7. Sao Paulo – 475m euros
  8. Santos – 445m euros
  9. Corinthians – 438m euros
  10. Arsenal – 400m euros

In a 2017 article by thesefootballtimes.co, they wrote an article on why Brazilian clubs (and fans) are experts on coping with their star sales (click here to read it). In summary it states –

“Carille, though, reiterated his comments that any genuine push to be crowned champions comes down to whether or not an already threadbare squad can keep its players for the duration of the campaign.”

The article continues…

“An easy bunch to rile up in the best of times, Corinthianos will be particularly ticked off should any agreement for Arana at all resemble that struck by Roma for Marquinhos. Nurtured since eight years of age, a sturdy centre-back well on his way to become one of the world’s best made just 14 first team appearances in Brazil before heading to Serie A for a paltry €1.5 million that was doubled upon completion of a handful of games in Italy.”

The article continues…

“After barely a year in Rome, Marquinhos would swap one European capital for another when Paris’ Arab-backed money men came knocking with a fee over 10 times the amount the Giallorossi acquired him for, at €31 million – then the highest paid for a teenager – with Corinthians receiving just a small cut of the proceeds. It’s a development no doubt resonating with fans of teams from the lower reaches of English football yet occurring in South America on a far grander, more frequent scale.”

The article continues…

“This all brings us to a sticking point. By the time Santos and Palmeiras were ready to sell, Neymar and Jesus were already beginning to demonstrate trophy-winning credentials, therefore upping their price. For every dicey, monstrous outlay, who’s to say whether a European buyer has the next Latin genius on his hands or another Kléberson or Keirrison, resulting in cut-rate offerings. In financial difficulties, Brazilian clubs are keen to get rid as soon as possible to balance the books but could also miss out on the millions if a talked-up target doesn’t come to fruition and flops whilst still in their employ.”

I think this demonstrates clubs in Brazil, Spain, Portugal and the UK are not only different in the way they operate (Benfica namely, who are able to sell their best talents and still remain competitive), but they have the infrastructure in reference to youth development, which is why they are able to constantly earth new talents. But not only this, with their infrastructure, they are able to sell them at the right time, as opposed to their sustainability dictating this.

In conclusion, while the financial rewards of the Premier League are immense, the financial realities of Ghanaian football are vastly different. The sale of players provides a significant injection of revenue for Ghanaian clubs, with the average transfer fee for a Ghanaian player being around $150,000, but it also has wider implications for the sustainability of football in the country. By investing in youth development and scouting talent from a young age, clubs can cultivate talented players who can eventually be sold for substantial fees. It’s important to remember that sustainability in football is not just about making money – it’s also about investing in the future of the sport in Ghana.

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Written by Andrew Mensah-Twumasi @andrewmensahjr (IG/Twitter)

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