The Ghana Football Association (GFA) unwrapped their gifts to the fans in the form of the Ghana Premier League which is scheduled on Sunday. 

 After a long break without Ghana football, the nation will be eager to see how this revamped competition will play out from the start.

 Joy Sports Bill Eshun reveals his 10 talking points ahead of matchday 1.

How the 18 team format will affect the league

At the 25th Ordinary congress in December, a key decision was made: The 18 team format was maintained but only three teams would be relegated going forward. This means 34 game weeks will be used instead of the previous 30 over the years and with this season scheduled to end in mid-July, mid-week games will be a regular feature. The new development creates similar problems faced by English Premier League clubs in the recent past and a chain of injuries, complaints and fatigue are bound to happen. Mourinho once said: “I don’t understand why we don’t receive any help from the Premier League in relation to European football”. Other managers like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have also complained in the past and this will be the case in Ghana football as well.

Referees have a point to prove

Refereeing in the league has been under huge scrutiny for a long time and the public perception of low-quality services provided by the referees were further enhanced by the release of the famous Anas expose which led to the exile of over 100 officials. In light of this, the GFA president, Kurt Okraku and his administration have provided a response.  Kurt revealed the plans of the Ghana FA to improve the financial incentives of referees. He also revealed the work on accommodation and transportation packages being done to ensure better services by the officials during matches. The referees now have to step up their game to gain the confidence of the stakeholders of Ghana football.

No CAF License A, no bench role

The club licensing board enforced many rules on clubs as preparations were being made for the commencement of the league and one of them have been centred on head coaches. Article 12.1 of the GFA Club Licensing Board regulations clearly state the need for the appointment of a head coach with a minimum of CAF A coaching license or its equivalent for Premier League teams. In response to this, most Premier League Clubs have seen a change in coaches. The biggest victims of this rule are John Paintsil and Ricardo Da Rocha who were sacked from the head coach role of Wa All Stars and AshantiGold due to their lack of the CAF A coaching licenses. 

Some clubs not ready for the season

Premier League clubs were tasked by the Club Licensing Board to appoint their required technical staff before the season begins and that has triggered a chain of reactions from most of the 18 clubs. Some Premier League clubs have however been forced to act in haste by sacking and appointing coaches just days before the opening day of the season. Accra Great Olympics, Karela, Eleven Wonders, Wa All Stars and AshantiGold have proved that they are not ready to play in the upcoming season yet. We understand the starvation experienced by the local football but this undesired situation takes the excitement out of the league.

Will the trend of home dominance continue?

Since the start of 2014/15 Premier League season, 836 matches have been played with 61.48% (514) of those matches turning into home wins. The more surprising statistic is that only 12.92% (108) of the 836 games have resulted in victories in enemy territory. This proves that most of the Premier League teams successfully defend their home turf but find little luck in away games. The upcoming season will determine if this peculiar continues or an unlikely shift of power arises.

The actual defending champions

There has been some confusion as to which team should be tagged as defending champions this season and it comes as no surprise. Aduana Stars took home the Premier League trophy in 2017 after finishing as runners up in the previous campaign and Kumasi Asante Kotoko won the Normalization Committee’s (NC) Tier One competition after beating Karela FC 4-1 on penalties. The two teams now have to prove their statuses to the fans and neutrals at the start of the new season.

The relegation favourites

A league filled with potential winners also possesses sides that have a grave dug and inscribed with their names, waiting for them to fall into a never-ending slumber. King Faisal and Accra Great Olympics are the two hot favourites for the not so coveted relegation placements. Inter Allies, Ebusua Dwarfs, Berekum Chelsea and Eleven Wonders are also potential candidates for demotion after their poor showing in their respective NC special competition. The opening fixtures will give a bigger picture of their stance at the end of the campaign.

All eyes on Maxwell Konadu’s second coming

Maxwell Konadu’s previous stint at the Porcupine Warriors as head coach was a memorable one, losing only 3 in 30 games (10%) and ending the 2011/12 season with 63 points. After the underwhelming performance by Kjetil Zachariassen on the continental front, Asante Kotoko sought out and re-acquired the now more experienced Maxwell Kondadu to work his magic once again. The former Black Stars B coach has started life on a positive note by winning the President’s Cup but the pressure will surely be mounting on him to repeat his feats.

Time for Hearts of Oak to challenge for the title

The Phobians may have the pedigree in Ghana football by attaining 20 league titles but a barren run in the league for the past decade has left little to be desired. Kim Grant was brought into the fold last year to turn the club’s fortunes around and this season provides a great opportunity to bring smiles to the faces of the fans of Hearts of Oak once again. The Accra based club may have relinquished the President’s cup to Asante Kotoko earlier but they can still lay claim to the league title at the end of the season.

WA All Stars and Ebusua Dwarfs tussle with the licensing board

The licensing board went to inspect the stadiums of each of the 18 teams and came out with a decision on Tuesday: 16 approved, 2 rejected. Wa All Stars and Ebusua Dwarfs chose the Madina Zongo Park and Robert Mensah Stadium respectively for their home games ahead of the season but the board deemed them substandard. The two teams are now in a race against time to find new venues before the season begins.