Ghana Rugby Crisis: A Story of Greed, Enemies of Progress & an Affront To Corporate Governance

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The Front Page Ghana News

An In-depth Investigative Report

Story Yaw Preko

Background

Rugby is a lesser-known sport in Ghana with the government giving it very little attention and the national sports authorities showing very little interests in its activities. Many people in Ghana did not hear about rugby as a sport until merely seven years. Ghanaians didn’t know about rugby because those who run it were not prepared to invest in the sport. Government of Ghana has always focused its resources on promoting soccer. And people compete to enter the GFA where there are massive resources to be used in the administration of the game.

Rugby, like all the other less promoted sports, suffered from lack of attention and remained in the background until Herbert Mensah rescued it with his own means, global connections and corporate sponsorships to bring commercial reality and accountability to the game in Ghana. He also introduced good corporate governance in accordance with global standards.

This is the reason why when Herbert Mensah became President of the Ghana rugby football union (GRFU) 7 years ago, he brought excitement among Ghanaians. This is a man who played rugby in college in England as a student. And also played professional rugby as a young man. He loves the game with passion. He knows the value of the game elsewhere in the world and wants to bring this value of the game to Ghana. He also has the means to invest personally into this unknown game. Ghanaians have all witnessed the exposure and transformation of Ghana rugby with Herbert Mensah as President of Ghana rugby football union.

Having gained a reputation for revolutionizing Ghana soccer and the local soccer league as Chairman of Asante Kotoko so many years ago, Herbert Mensah came to Ghana rugby to raise the expectation of Ghanaians to very high levels. Many Ghanaians began to think of and follow rugby because one of the best sports administrators in Ghana was now in charge of a less known game called rugby.

In seven (7) years, Ghana rugby has gone to many places, played several international tournaments, won more than four trophies in Africa, became a full member of Africa and world rugby. Rugby has become one of the most talked about sports in Ghana today because of the massive investment in player welfare and technical expertise, exposure of the game and attraction of sponsorship as well as compliance with Africa and world rugby standards under the leadership of Herbert Mensah.

To quality for full membership of world rugby, a 10-team standard league is basic requirement. Mensah also introduced female rugby, foreign coaches, foreign technical assistance and attractive player remuneration.

Ghana rugby currently has a secretariat equipped with an ultra-modern boardroom and a player camp all housed in a personal building of Herbert Mensah the President of Ghana rugby at no rental cost to Ghana rugby football union or the state of Ghana.

After 6 years in office, Herbert Mensah indicated at the last Annual General Meeting of the board of Ghana rugby that he wishes to handover the affairs of Ghana rugby to someone else and move on to other things. He was persuaded not to leave just before the Covid-19 global health pandemic hit the world and put an end to all sporting activities in the country.

There has therefore been no rugby games or tournaments in Ghana since the last AGM. And it comes as a shock that some members of the Ghana rugby board hiding behind a few rugby players, have suddenly decided to remove the President after one year without activity without following the due governance process.

Governance And Due Process In Ghana Rugby

SCHEDULE 7 Procedures of the Board

Convening Meetings:  The Board will meet:

  • at such times and places as it decides; and
  • at a special meeting of the Board called by the Chief Executive Officer if requested by the chairperson, or any three members of the Board, to do so. The date and place of the special meeting will be determined by the Chief Executive Officer.
  1. Notice of enquiry: The Chief Executive Officer must give not less than one weeks notice of the date and place of the meeting at which any enquiry is to be held by the Board under clauses 5 or 6 or clause 3.11 of the main body of this Constitution and of the matters to be considered at the enquiry to the Affiliated Union, team or individual concerned. At any such enquiry, the Affiliated Union, team or individual concerned has the right to be heard.

Due to the compulsion for compliance with Africa and world rugby rules and regulations and in accordance with best corporate practice, the board chairman and President of Ghana rugby has ensured due process at all times in the governing board of Ghana rugby on which he is the chairman.  All board meetings convened by the board chairman over the past 7 years have been in line with the provisions of the governing constitution of Ghana rugby.

Failed Attempts To Remove the President and Board Chairman Illegal

The recent attempts to remove Herbert Mensah from the position of President and board chairman of Ghana rugby flouts every rule in the governing constitution. Our investigations and reading of the constitution shows clearly that due process was not followed and illegal board meetings have been convened to take illegal decisions concerning Ghana rugby’s future.

Our investigations have revealed that the cabal leading the illegal hostile take over of Ghana rugby are James Nunoo, President of the Central and Western regional rugby association who is also vice president of Ghana rugby, Abdul Aziz, President of greater Accra regional rugby association (GARRA), Ako Wilson, representative of Ghana rugby players association (GRUPA) on the board and Bismark Amponsah, general secretary of Ghana rugby.

These people, in cahoots with a few rugby players have abrogated unto themselves some powers that are not granted them by the Ghana rugby constitution to carry out illegal activities against the general interest of the rugby game. Their action has put the future of Ghana rugby in jeopardy.

In their hasty attempt to illegally take over Ghana rugby, the cabal simply refused to follow the dictates of the constitution.

The GRFU constitution states clearly in clause 9.3 ‘’An Affiliated body can seek the removal of an officer or a board member by requisitioning a special general meeting in accordance with schedule 5 or by giving notice to the chief executive officer in accordance with clause 5.2(h)’’.

The chief executive officer here is Mr. Herbert Mensah. Although the GRUPA is an affiliated body of the GRFU, the GRUPA did not requisition a special general meeting or give notice to the chief executive officer according to the dictates of the constitution.

The constitution further states that, ‘’an officer or Board Member can be removed from office by a Special Resolution passed at a General Meeting. An Officer or Board Member cannot be removed by a postal vote. The Chief Executive Officer must give not less than three weeks’ notice to the Officer or Board Member concerned of the meeting at which a motion for removal from office is to be considered’’.

Unfortunately, there has been no special resolution and there has been no general meeting prior to the media announcement from the cabal who purport to be the new managers of Ghana rugby.  Indeed in their first illegal meeting on April 27th, the group illegally wrote to the bankers of Ghana rugby to freeze its accounts.

That’s not all. The constitution also makes it clear that only the board chairman has the power to convene such a meeting for the consideration of the removal of any officer or board member. Any board meeting such as the three meetings that have been held by the cabal and the subsequent decisions to freeze bank accounts of Ghana rugby and remove the board chairman are therefore null and void, legally speaking. This position has been confirmed by the GOC.

A board member can only be removed at a General Meeting. This is written plainly and simply to refer to any annual general meeting or special general meeting of the GRFU. None of these has taken place before the purported ‘’removal’’ of Herbert Mensah or his replacement with anyone else. It therefore shows that this whole coup attempt is a media gimmick without force or effect.

Resistance From Other Board members

Several board members protested the holding of the meetings that led to the attempted and purported removal of the board chairman without following due process to hear the side of the board chairman who must be given a hearing in accordance with the rules of natural justice in any such circumstances.

Their protests were sent in replies to invitations for the meetings and sighted by the Front Page News Report.

Chester Annie is the judicial officer on the board of Ghana rugby. Although he was invited to the board meetings convened by the cabal rebelling against the President, he refused to attend and served written notice to the conveners.

‘’ I am the judicial officer of the Board. I disassociate with the meetings, which in the LEGAL UNDERSTANDING, was wrongly convened. Under the law and constitution, NO BOARD MEETING MAY BE CONVENED BY ANY ONE OTHER THAN THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD/ President of Ghana rugby. And a board meeting cannot be forced upon other members.

I hereby disassociate myself from this ‘board meeting’

And therefore will NOT BE ATTENDING’’, he wrote.

The GRFU judicial officer also said he has advised the cabal to desist from convening illegal board meetings and taking illegal decisions but to no avail.

‘’ I raised this same issue in the last board meeting held. Only the board chairman can call a board meeting. So Herbert Mensah calls board meetings in his capacity as board chairman, not as President of Ghana rugby football union. Therefore, the Vice President of the Union, James Nunoo have no locus to call a board meeting as he is not a vice chairman of the board, but a vice President of the union’’.

Another board member Erica Amoako also turned down an invitation to attend a second meeting when she realized that the first meeting she attended was an illegal attempt to remove the board chairman in his absence.

She wrote, ‘’ A member of the Ghana rugby board can only call a board meeting when delegated and asked directly by the Board Chairman in writing to do so. 

Secondly, as per the constitution, notice of a board meeting should be given to members not less than a week before the date of the meeting. None of this has taken place.

I find these irregularities illegal and will not be a part of it. Kindly see Schedule 7 of our constitution’’.

Erica Amoako added, ‘’Even if there is a petition against the board chairman, it still does not justify bypassing the Board Chair to call a meeting.

I have sought legal advice on the previous meeting and the one being called. I have been advised that any illegal meeting called is void and all decisions taken there are also void. In this respect and as fiduciary duty owed to Ghana Rugby, I disassociate myself from all the illegalities and consequences flowing from this illegality’’, she concluded.

Rafatu Inusah is also a member of the Ghana rugby board as a representative of the female national team. She also attended the first meeting of the cabal but protested against the further holding of any such illegal meetings.

‘’ As I said before, until the president and board chairman of Ghana Rugby Football Union writes formerly to the board, I stand firmly on the view that it’s not a board meeting that I attended the last time but rather an emergency meeting and so any resolutions made by the group is null and void and unconstitutional. I therefore disassociate my self from any illegal meeting or decision and therefore would not join the meeting’’.

Allegations Against The President

Investigations reveal that the allegations that triggered the attempted removal of the board chairman and President of Ghana rugby did not have the support of majority of the Ghana rugby players association. Indeed, several members of the playing body we spoke with have totally contrary views about the petition.

 In some cases, some players complained that their signatures were forged on the petition without their knowledge. In other cases, some players have said that their leadership asked them to sign signatures on plain pieces of paper without disclosing the content of the petition. In other words, they were tricked into signing the petition against their will.

 Many of these players are now protesting and speaking out, even threatening, to expose those who fraudulently used their names in a petition without their knowledge.

Every single rugby player who spoke on record discredited all the allegations made in the petition against Herbert Mensah.

Herbert Mensah is accused of unilateralism in the petition to remove him. According to the coup makers, this is because he relies too much on foreign coaches in order to have easy control over them. This is ridiculous because the rugby game is more developed in many other foreign countries than ours. And if the President is investing in foreign coaches to bring good results to the game in Ghana, why should anyone interested in the development of Ghana rugby be against such moves? What is unilateral about that?

They accuse Herbert Mensah for causing the decline of the local rugby league and for funding and promoting his own clubs. This also seems like a fallacy. It is not against the Ghana rugby constitution for the President to own a rugby team. As we know, our GFA President owns a football club. In England, members of the English FA own soccer teams. And so that becomes a moot point.

But our investigations reveal that Herbert Mensah truly funded over 80% of the rugby clubs in Ghana over the past couple years from his private pocket. This is in order for Ghana to comply with Africa rugby and world rugby standards of a 10-team league. This brought a vibrant local league to qualify Ghana as a full member of Africa and world rugby.

We even discovered that some of the people behind the purported and attempted removal of Herbert Mensah as President and board chairman are owners of rugby clubs that were created and funded by Mensah in their names.

 Abdul Aziz Issah and Ako Wilson (two of the board members trying to remove Mr. Mensah) own rugby teams that Herbert Mensah created and funded for them. He even brought in a Zimbabwean coach to help the teams develop. Is this a reason to call for the removal of the man behind all this investments?

More over, the President of Ghana rugby is in charge of the national teams. The regional Presidents whose responsibility it is to run the local league are the very ones blaming Herbert Mensah for their own failures at the regional levels.

The other allegation is that Herbert Mensah has instituted a very disproportionate remuneration system in Ghana rugby. They also claim that foreign players are making too much more money than local players. It is interesting to hear this accusation considering that everyone knows that foreign players have always earned more money than local players even in soccer because they bring more value to the team.

 Besides, our investigations reveal that prior to the assumption of Herbert Mensah at the helm of affairs at Ghana rugby, there existed no form of remuneration for any rugby players in Ghana.

The fact that rugby players now receive monthly allowances and salaries is a testimony to the solid structures and global standards that Herbert Mensah has brought to the game of rugby in Ghana. Rather than criticizing and accusing him, people who truly want progress in Ghana rugby should be commending him.

In addition, no rugby team including the national teams had played and won in any international tournament before Herbert Mensah took over. The rugby national teams today can boast of several trophies and laurels in the past 7 years.

As for the accusation of stifling players from playing abroad, it is not supported by the facts as several Ghana rugby players have gained call-ups and are currently playing in foreign leagues with foreign teams in South Africa and United Kingdom.

For once, there was an under-20 tournament played in Kampala, Uganda of which Herbert Mensah thought that Ghana was not prepared for it. But James Nunoo Mensah the vice President of Ghana rugby and Abdul Aziz Issah decided to independently manage that tournament in Kampala. The two went to Uganda with local coaches and the players and swallowed 40 and 50 points per game. It remains the worse performance of the national rugby team till date. This is the record of those seeking to remove Herbert Mensah and take over Ghana rugby.

Allegations Discredited

The national rugby team manager Abdul Rahman Salissu has discredited the allegations against Herbert Mensah.  He defended the man who he described as wanting the best for Ghana rugby. ‘’All the allegations are lies’’, he told Nathaniel Attoh of Joy News.

 ‘’If there was any such incident concerning physical scuffle, It is about 7 years ago but if it was that serious, there would have been a police record of that. I have been involved with Ghana rugby for a long time. There was nothing like that. And they are saying that he brought in foreign coaches, of course, every country wants the best. He is bringing top coaches and he is paying with his own money so they should tell us who are they bringing?  Me I am thinking about the future of Ghana rugby so we won’t sit down and allow a few people to decide for us, it is not fair’’.

The national rugby team manager also has some good advise for the rebels.

 ‘’In that petition against Herbert Mensah, they should be fair. They should tell every side of the story. Many of those people who signed that petition have taken rent money from the man’s own pocket and many other personal help. Not one or two persons but many of them. Were they able to put that in that petition?’’

He added, ‘’I am not a member of the board but those board members should go and sit down with the man and talk. They should think about the future of Ghana rugby’’.

Kadija Adams is a female rugby player. She also told JOY NEWS that the picture painted with the allegations against the Ghana rugby President is completely opposite of her own personal experience as a rugby player working with Herbert Mensah.

‘’The man is a good man who likes to help all of us with our personal problems’’, She said. ‘’I have been playing rugby since 2007. We didn’t go anywhere and we didn’t get any personal benefit until he came. We are now playing leagues and tournaments. We have done coaching training. I can even coach others if I stop playing’’

She also shared her personal experience with Herbert Mensah as President of Ghana rugby. ‘’I am a married woman with two children. One of them is sick with hole in heart. I could not get help for her surgery for a long time, but thanks to Herbert Mensah, when he heard, she has undergone a first of two surgeries’’.

Players Welfare

Player’s welfare seems to be at the heart of the allegations contained in the petition from GRUPA against Herbert Mensah. This necessitated a visit by a group of journalists from various media houses to conduct an inspection tour of the Ghana rugby secretariat and camping accommodation in Osu, Accra.

Contrary to allegations that the players were doing private work for the President against their will, we found out that Herbert Mensah has put some of the players on national youth employment program. Anyone who works for him gets a salary for the work. 

The independent tour revealed that Herbert Mensah’s own building serve as a camping facility for the Ghana rugby players.  All the players at camp confessed that they are very happy in the building where they have access to DSTV, WIFI, Flat screen tv and with free food. They also get an allowance every month from the President and the only work they do besides playing rugby is to clean up their own living space.

We also found out in our investigations that in the last 7 years, there is been an open medical accountant at the Total House Clinic, Accra, for all Ghana rugby players and technical team members from any club who get injured. This appears to be the only sport in Ghana with such an open medical facility for players and management team members – and directly sponsored by the President.

Players and team managers have confirmed that free accommodation or rent allowance, free food and free medical care forms apart of their benefits as rugby prayers.

Fours case studies also emerged during investigations:

  1. Ghana’s brilliant Richard Scrumharf destroyed his ligament at the international tournament in SA. He revealed that Herbert Mensah has flown him back to South Africa twice for surgery. Although he is no longer playing, he remains housed in Herbert Mensah’s building and still receives a monthly stipend.
  2. Bruno is also a national team player who injured his shoulder during the game and had to be flown back to SA twice for surgery.
  3. Dorothy is a female rugby player who got injured and received surgery in Ghana.
  4. Many on the national team have taken housing allowances and rent advance from the President to the tune of 9,500 Ghana cedes. Players, coaches and directors like Sanni, coach Amuzulu, Abdul Aziz Issah have all taken money for their own personal problems including rent, funerals, outdooring etc. This is according to the team manager of the Ghana Eagles team.

Sponsorships

Nobody on the Ghana rugby board except the chairman has brought sponsorship money to Ghana rugby in the past 7 years, according to the sighted external audit report.

One director Abdul Aziz Issah has faced accusations of squandering money at the expense of player welfare.

Driven By Greed

The renegade board members seeking to take over Ghana rugby seem to have cut their noses to spite their faces and exposed their true intentions when they quickly wrote a letter and signed it in the name of the board requesting Societe general bank, Osu branch to freeze the Ghana rugby account.

 Investigations reveal that Bismark Amponsah, general secretary, Abdul Aziz, director, James N.A. Nunoo, vice President and K. Mintah Nyarko, director signed the letter to the bank on April 27th 2021 after holding a meeting that was neither called by the board chairman nor had him present.

In the letter sighted by us, the group claimed that the decision to free the accounts was a board resolution. Meanwhile, the main signatory to the account is the President and board chairman whose consent was never sought before attempting to freeze the accounts.

Investigations further reveal that the societe general bank bizarrely complied and granted the request to freeze the account with immediate effect without even cross checking from the board chairman and main signatory.

This raises further questions as to whether the bank is also in cahoots with those seeking to use dubious means to take over Ghana rugby without following the due process laid gown by Ghana rugby’s governing constitution. The coincidence seems intriguing and the bank’s actions questionably leave much to be desired.

Impressions

After speaking to and listening to all these players, board members and seeing the good living conditions of the players at their Osu camp, one impression has been formed: GRUPA led by Ako Wilson in cahoots with Abdul Aziz Issah of Greater Accra rugby association, James Nunoo the vice president of Ghana rugby, Bismark Amponsah, and their other enablers have only one wish: to try and destroy the man Herbert Mensah and all that he has built for Ghana rugby for their own short-term personal gain. It is difficult to see any other real issues involved in this matter.

GRFU Audited Report & Implications For Ghana Rugby

The GRFU accounts were audited 12 months ago. It was reported and signed off by all the board members including those agitating for change today. Since the last audited report cited by us, there hasn’t been any rugby activity due to Covid -19 restrictions.

The audit report has been confirmed by the external auditor Charles Mensah and it reveals a whooping 2million Ghana cedes indebtedness to Herbert Mensah’s personal account as President of Ghana rugby football union.

In other words, the GRFU’s total expenses exceeded revenues by 2 million Ghana cedes in the last accounting period. This accounting does not take into consideration the rent on the personal building of the President currently used as secretariat and accommodation and training camp for players.

 Meanwhile, the money in the GRFU’s frozen bank account is not even a fraction of what is owed to the man.

This means that if Herbert Mensah is leaving Ghana rugby for those who want him to leave, he will not only leave with his personal assets including his personal cars, buses and buildings, he will also leave Ghana rugby bankrupt without his current assets including sponsors.  Do these board members not know the ramifications of their actions? Or do they not care about consequences? What at all is their motivation beyond their personal financial goals? These are legitimate questions we must ask.

The last audited accounts of Ghana Rugby was presented and signed off in the presence of Africa and world rugby at the last AGM in Accra. Both Africa rugby and world rugby hold Ghana in high esteem for corporate governance and its financial compliance with global standards.

At last year’s AGM, Steffnel from world rugby, Charles Yapo of Africa rugby, Perry Okudjeto, former deputy minister of sports, Ben Nunoo Mensah, President of GOC, electoral commissioners and NSC officials and media were present to witness and sign off the audited accounts.

  Since there hasn’t been any rugby activity in Ghana due to covid-19 restrictions in the past year, it is difficult to see why anybody will make accusations and seek the removal of the President now that is off season.

 In the audited accounts sighted by the Front Page News Report, four of the directors have received up to 1500 Ghana cedes in the last 12 months despite there being no rugby activities during this period.  Ako Wilson who is the player’s representative on the board is also reported to have received rice, sugar and clothing items also from Herbert Mensah during the last 12 months without any rugby activity.

We should all be interested in how these people intend to pay back the money owed to Herbert Mensah since they want him to go now? Meanwhile these are the same people who cannot even run the local league without support from the President they are now seeking to remove.

Impeaching A Man Who Wants To Leave?

During the last AGM of Ghana rugby, it was recorded and reported by some of the board members that the President and chairman of the board Herbert Mensah gave indication of his intentions to not retain his position as President and chairman of the Ghana rugby governing board going forward. This raises legitimate questions about the motives of those board members agitating for his removal and the timing of their agitation when the running of the game is on hold and the President is on his way out as indicated anyways.

The agitators had the opportunity to follow the constitution, call for a special general meeting or an emergency AGM to put their petition before it for consideration. They could have also followed the process by demanding the board chairman convene a properly constituted board meeting to address the petition for his removal. Investigations should have been done. The rules of natural justice should have been followed.  But they seem to have chosen a road that seeks to pull down the structure with the man who built it. The structure however seems as solid as the man himself and difficult to pull down.

Legitimate Questions remain at the end of the day. Are these people pursuing this hostile take over of Ghana rugby really capable of running it when Herbert Mensah leaves? These are the same people who have failed in running successful regional leagues. How can they run a national team? Where will they find new sponsors? Have they thought about the implications of flouting Africa and world rugby standards of governance?

Where will they find a building to use as a secretariat and where will the homeless players be camped for training when they leave the Herbert Mensah building because of this needless agitation?

GOC Reaction Settles Matter

Mohammed Sahnoon is the general secretary of the Ghana Olympics Committee (GOC). In an interview, he said the GOC will not uphold any unconstitutional action against the President and chairman of the board Herbert Mensah.

According to him only a special general meeting of the federation is clothed with such powers to cause the removal of the board chairman.

The general secretary also said in correspondence with the rugby players union of Ghana that Herbert Mensah was duly elected as President and board chairman in accordance with the constitution and cannot be removed without following due process. He advised those who wish to remove the President from office to follow the laid down constitutional process. Until then, Herbert Mensah remains the President and board chairman of Ghana rugby.

Ghana Rugby & Covid-19

Although the game of rugby hasn’t been played for over a year, the managers of the game have had to deal with the consequences of the covid-19 pandemic. Testing and treatment have been carried out among the players and technical team members during the period. Over 400 Covid-19 tests at the cost of over 250,000 Ghana cedes were conducted during the period. Many who tested positive had to be rehabilitated far in excess of the ‘’return to play’’ package of 6000 euros from world rugby.

Meanwhile sources close to Herbert Mensah says his only interests is for proper procedure to be followed in compliance with the standard governance of the union since he already gave indications of his willingness to move on from Ghana rugby over a year ago.

Conclusions

It is not surprising that many self-made men in Ghana do not want to get involved in matters of public affairs. Sport is an integral part of youth development in our society. And lesser-known sports like rugby require committed and dedicated administrators with global awareness to be able to develop in our country.

The flouting of the governing rules as has been done by some board members is a big scare to all the sponsors and potential sponsors of the game in Ghana.

And while it is difficult to find people prepared to spend their personal resources to develop unknown sports, it will now become an even mire daunting task to find resourceful people in the near future to invest their time and money to develop any sport in Ghana.

It is important that when these things happen, the appropriate authorities speak up and quash such retrogressive tendencies to destroy in a day what it took seven years to create.

It is also important for the sports media to be mindful of what it gives oxygen to in Ghana sports. Giving media platforms to destructive elements to destroy the hard worn reputations of persons of stature and integrity is not developmental journalism. It is yellow journalism.

The individuals involved in this saga must bow their heads down in shame for their personal greed and hate for the collective progress of Ghana rugby. What they are trying so hard to destroy is actually not Herbert Mensah but the futures of all the young men and women Ghana rugby players who have found hope for the future and gained confidence, knowledge, exposure and discipline through the game of rugby.

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