Last Saturday when the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) held its annual inter-departmental games at the El-Wak Stadium in Accra, it was evident that portions of the important sporting edifice was in a state of disrepair and needed urgent renovation.
A facility renovated in 2007 for use as a training pitch for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations tournament, as well as venue for important competitions such as the SESSA Games and some inter-collegiate athletics competition, the El-Wak stadium was a sorry sight to behold.
Many portions of the wooden stands looked weak and a tragedy waiting to happen, the washrooms are an eyesore and the tartan tracks are peeling off, exposing the concrete base.
The stadium, owned by the Ghana Armed Forces, has been the only venue in the nation’s capital for national athletes to train and compete, for which reason the rate of deterioration of the facilities will undermine the development of track and field in particular.
The deteriorating state of the El-Wak Stadium is a reflection of the state of the nation’s sporting infrastructure which underwent massive reconstruction ahead of CAN 2008 but has been left at the mercy of the weather without any regular maintenance schedule put in place by the National Sports Authority (NSA).
The Accra Stadium is a good reflection of the lack of a maintenance culture, as portions of the massive infrastructure has been left to rust, while dangerous cracks have developed in the structure, including the commentary box. No one needs a soothsayer to predict that it is a catastrophe waiting to happen.
As for the washrooms, the least said about them, the better.
Similarly, the Sekondi Stadium at Essipong is deteriorating fast, and yet nothing is being done to salvage the situation, in spite of numerous reports by the Graphic Sports and other media organisations.
The Director General of the NSA, Joe Kpenge, who was at the El-Wak stadium as a special guest at the Graphic Games, admitted that maintenance of the existing infrastructure remained one of the NSA’s biggest challenges because of lack of funding by the government.
While this paper agrees with Mr Kpenge that the government has consistently failed to provide the needed funds for capital investment and the maintenance of facilities, his outfit must come to terms with the harsh realities that the state may not be able to provide all the funding needed to maintain facilities, hence the need for the NSA to think outside the box and adopt modern and creative methods of sports facility management to raise private funding to take care of the facilities.
The various stadia are located in prime and strategic areas and have facilities such as conference rooms, office space and vast open space suitable for many outdoor activities and when these are marketed properly and managed effectively, they could create various revenue streams for the NSA to wean itself of government funding.
Even though the NSA boss has hinted of a new policy towards public-private partnerships (PPPs), this paper is aware that the CAN 2008 LOC left behind a good facility user policy and a road map on how the stadia could be managed profitably.
Already, millions of dollars has been sunk into the construction of a new stadium in Cape Coast, but we can’t continue investing huge resources in the expansion of sports infrastructure without a commensurate maintenance policy in place.