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Broadcasting rights have changed the perception of women’s football in Ghana

The players now have the representation they needed

The Ghana Women’s Premier League (GWPL) and FA Cup have finally come to an end. This season was marked by great strides, surprises, and major upsets throughout; making it one that will be forever etched in the history books of Ghanaian football.

The major highlight of this season was when the official Women’s Premier league account announced the broadcasting deal they signed with Max TV. Eyeballs almost fell out, smiles were from ear to ear, and hearts thumped with great joy and pride proving just how much fans were trying to process the whole news.

Finally, days when girls used to cower away from football, are being pushed aside..

The 2021/2022 season marked the 10th anniversary of the GWPL during which, the FAWSL had also announced before the start of last season that they had also signed a broadcasting deal for their league with major media houses. When these scenarios normally play out, Africa is normally late to the party. This time Ghana decided to go against the status quo and represent women’s football on television and on social media as well.

Without a doubt, the mantra which says “Representation matters” has now become a truism in the world of football for women: if she sees herself represented, there is no way you can tell her she can’t do it. Parents see their children on television and express their pride. Gradually, they are accepting football as a norm for their girl-child instead of threatening to disown them if they’re seen kicking a ball during twilight on a Wednesday evening.

The new official board of the GWPL has been overseeing affairs for two years now. Evidently, with the swaths of development, what they have achieved so far has pleased fans. The Ghana Football Association (GFA) appointed this board in 2020 to oversee the GWPL. The board is currently made up of only women and that brings to light the importance of diversity and inclusion, especially in the corporate sports landscape.

Berry Ladies against Police Ladies at the Madina Astroturf
Elikem Pele | Sika Fotos

Two matches were televised weekly on the screens of Ghanaians and those in the diaspora. The GWPL is mainly made up of two zones with 10 teams each. The northern zone is played amongst teams in the Northern part of the country and the Southern zone is for teams located along the coastal lines. Each week, one match was televised from each zone.

The games were broadcasted mid-afternoon in Ghana, at 3pm on weekdays. Most schools in Ghana close by 3pm or 3:30 pm and many young girls and children with an interest in football rush home to see their favorite teams play. The aim of this broadcast deal was to make Ghanaian women’s football easily accessible to the public. It was to sell and commercialise women’s football in the long run.

In 2020, Startimes signed a broadcast deal worth $5.2 million for the male version of the Premier League. During my interview with her, Hillary Boateng, Chairperson of the Women’s Premier League Committee, hoped the women’s game would also be telecasted. She decided to probe and pressure the GFA into adding the women to the broadcast deal. This has been a primary goal of the GWPL board to cork within the shortest possible time. It took a few talks and negotiations to finally reach an agreement with Max TV, a subsidiary of Startimes. Boateng reacted to the impact of these television rights with pride. “First of all kudos must go to the FA and to Max Tv for investing heavily in the Women’s game. This is massive, this shouldn’t be taken lightly because, in the history of the women’s premier league, this is the first time we are watching matches on live tv and I think that it is history-made and it’s fantastic”.

In all of Africa, the GWPL has broken a major barrier and has sent an important message to various Federations that Women’s football can be broadcasted and marketed as well.

Hillary Boateng further on revealed that there is no money involved in the broadcast deal with Max TV. “As far as I’m concerned, there is no money involved, this is purely to develop the Women’s Premier League by making it accessible to the public and that is what the sponsorship is about”.

Globally, women’s football is still gaining traction after years of playing second fiddle to the men’s game. Africa’s development has been growing steadily on an upward curve. The revolution in women’s football at the beginning of this decade had been radical, to say the least. With the incredible launch of the inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League (CAFWCL) which saw a display of classic and artistic football, perceptions were changed. Ghana is on a mission to see the development of women’s football across the country and be a hub for the best players from the continent.

These positives are immense and by no means should be ignored but there are negatives in the GWPL that we can’t ignore either. Most of the players aren’t given a basic salary or paid at all. For example, in the NWSL players now have an average salary of$35,000 with free housing and paid parental leave. The FAWSL also now include paid maternal leave for players. In Ghana, these are still major gaps that are yet to be addressed by the GWPL.

Dreams Ladies FC in action in the Ghana Women’s Premier League
Joseph Boateng | Sika Fotos

Hillary Boateng defended that disparity by indicating the trials that most of the owners go through to keep their teams afloat. “Most of these owners are already doing a lot for the girls. Some parents leave the primary care of their children to these owners. They are then tasked to feed them, accommodate them, and put them through school as well” she cited .

The board isn’t against improvement. They do want the players duly paid their worth because this is the primary source of income for most of them. So in order to try and address that, the board is in talks with sponsors who would be interested in sponsoring and professionalising the league to offer players the best experience, and hopefully aid in addressing those issues within the league.

Hillary Boateng also stated that during COVID, FIFA allocated money for women’s football in Ghana (each club in the league at the time received $10,000). Also, YEA supported the players by paying them 500cedis ($63) monthly. The major priority of the league currently is to get a headline sponsor.

However, it’s not all murky for some players. National Security Agencies who own clubs in the league offer tuition and jobs to their players. Teams like Police Ladies FC, Immigration Ladies FC, Prison Ladies FC, and Army Ladies employ most of their players. The projection is to see other clubs improvise to give their players the best treatment as well.

“I’ve spoken to some of the club owners and administrators and I know some of them are working on it very very strongly and sooner than later, I think this conversation around paying players will be a thing of the past- it is taking a bit of time but I think slowly we’re getting there.” Boateng states during the interview.

The heightened visibility of the women’s game and the media traction the players get has seen some of them sign with foreign teams primarily across Europe. Players like Evelyn Badu and Perpetual Agyekum formerly of Hasaacas Ladies signed a contract with Avaldnes in the Norweigian Women’s League in 2022. This was after their brilliant display in GWPL and the CAFWCL.

Ghanaian women’s football is steadily scaling up. Hillary Boateng assures that, next season will be even bigger than the last.

Normalizing soccer amongst girls in Ghana has seen a massive improvement and now Ghanaian girls want to have a feel of the game without feeling inferior or seen as masculine. As a way to combat that mentality, during the FA cup final between the two GWPL powerhouses, Hasaacas Ladies and Ampem Darkoa, girls from high schools were given a free pass to come and witness the game. Work still has to be done on creating an enabling environment for girls in soccer to appreciate themselves, their looks, and their abilities.

In the final parting words from Hillary Boating, “slowly, we’re getting there”. These broadcasting rights are putting everything on the right track and long may it continue.