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The call by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Athletics Association [Bawa Fuseini] for top athletes to have or be considered for the issuance of service passports to facilitate their travel for international assignments is one worthy of serious consideration.

The challenge of travel visas for athletes, having regard for the timing between when athletes qualify for a competition or are declared fit for same competition and the days remaining to the competition, has been a major hurdle for most Sports administrators in Ghana, especially those involved in the least financed Sports.

There’s always a window of hope for such Sports administrators in such circumstances, especially if or when there is no local embassy of the host country and or the accreditation for the games is not an automatic visa. This window of hope is unfortunately only if the Sports Administrators for the Sports (from my experience over the last 14 years) are in the good books of Politicians or know how to find diplomatic favors within a short time.

I can recall one such personal experience. In 2016, athlete Martin Owusu-Antwi [then a student of KNUST] was issued with a Diplomatic passport (not even service passport) to travel to South Africa for the All Africa University Games and the Confederation of Africa Athletics championship at the request of the Ghana Mission in South Africa [H. E. Kwesi Ahwoi] through the President of the Ghana Athletics Association [Prof. Dodou]. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the passport conditional and so it was returned and revoked immediately after the Games. Without it, he couldn’t have traveled

It is for such reasons that some of us have continued to advocate for the change in how the Ghana Olympic Committee and the National Sports Federations are established under the laws of Ghana, but many still don’t understand our advocacy. Even when #Number12 came and government attempted to wind up GFA, some of us said that the right solution thereafter is establishment by statute. But it wasn’t understood.

Sports administration today involves a high level of diplomatic relation, to such an extent that the IOC is a specialized agency of the United Nations, conferring international status, rights and protection. As a result, bids for its events, like some other international sports events, requires the bidders to offer State government guarantees for certain aspects of the hosting.

In the same way, Statutory established GOC and Sports Federations, if so done going forward, will confer certain status, rights and protection for athletes and administrators. Put plainly, services passport is only for certain senior state officials. Therefore, as long as Sports Federations are not State-Established independent Sports Federations, the question of Service Passport is far fetched.

Many people are under the mistaken belief that State-Established sports Federations means government interference. On the contrary, State-Established Sports Federations is in accordance with the charters of all international sports Federations and it simply means making the Sports body an organization established by the people of Ghana as a public institution and not the establishment as private institutions by the association of some citizens. The independence is not in any way compromised by the establishment under statute [an Act or resolution of Parliament or by special warrant of the Attorney-General for the Constitution of the Association under a special law for the business of Sports in Ghana].

There are many State-Established independent organizations that reference can be made to, to assure anyone of compliance with government non-interference requirements of International Sports. One of such bodies is the Institute of Accountants. Another is the Institute of Taxation.

By virtue of the reason behind the Supreme Court decision in Rockson vs Ghana Football Association, no Sports Federation in Ghana can claim that their laws are part of the laws of Ghana. And there is a failure or lacuna in the Sports Act of 2016 when it confers on the Minister of Sports the authority to make regulations concerning the application of the Charters of International Sports Federations in Ghana.

In my opinion, when these are corrected, it will confer on the various Sports Federations of Ghana the status quasi to any of the Foreign Missions of Ghana under the supervision of the ministry of foreign affairs. Thereby, the issuance of service passport or expedited visa acquisition will be greatly possible. In the absence of this, it may just be wishes and like the cliché “if wishes were horses, beggars will be riding”, Sports Federations will only be riding around as beggars and not esteemed ambassadors.

Source: Nii Adokwei Codjoe

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