Action to Halt Dismal Sporting Slide: Following a Number of Dismal and Humiliating International Sporting Results, the South African Government Has Decided on a Radical Change in the Way the Country's Sports Bodies Are Administered. Tom Nevin Reports

By Nevin, Tom | African Business, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Action to Halt Dismal Sporting Slide: Following a Number of Dismal and Humiliating International Sporting Results, the South African Government Has Decided on a Radical Change in the Way the Country's Sports Bodies Are Administered. Tom Nevin Reports


Nevin, Tom, African Business


South African sport is in a mess and needs a tough business approach to put it right. This is the view of the South African government, stung by the poor showing of the nation's athletes at the Athens Olympics, lacklustre soccer accomplishment, drubbing of its cricketers at the hands of the Sri Lankans and other substandard sporting performances.

To put matters right, the government is helping to steer a process that will see sporting bodies and codes gathered under a regulatory umbrella body called Sportco. The fact that it is to be run along company lines leaves little doubt that Pretoria means business and intends pulling South African sport up by its bootstraps.

According to commentator Siphiwe Mpye, Sportco will be as results-driven as any Johannesburg Securities Exchange-listed company. "This means that bodies such as the National Olympic Committee of South Africa and the All Africa Games committee and the Commonwealth Games committee will all fall under Sportco," says Mpye. "Those sporting groups that take part in the Olympics, Commonwealth and All Africa games will be branded 'Team South Africa' and sponsorship negotiations will be handled by Sportco.

"However, team sports such as rugby, cricket and soccer--although they will be part of Sportco--will still be administered by their own officials. Only multi-team sports federations and student and school sports associations will be absorbed completely."

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GOVERNMENT HANDS OFF, EYES ON

Although the government will have no control over Sportco (if it had, it would risk losing recognition by the International Olympic Committee and Fifa) it will work closely with the organisation to accelerate the country's sports performance.

The division of responsibility has been made clear. Sportco will promote high performance among top-grade athletes and players while the government establishes "mass participation mechanisms to act as breeding grounds and feeder systems" for elite performers.

Dr Willie Basson, head of Sportco's steering committee, allayed fears of government control. "Government on a local, regional and provincial level--along with the communities in the different areas--will concentrate on the mass participation programme, making sure that talented athletes are given the chance to perform at the highest level when they are integrated into the high-performance sports system."

Notes Basson: "We missed the boat in Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and now, it would seem, in Athens as well. We cannot afford to allow this to happen again. If we miss out on this opportunity, it will be very difficult to bounce back."

The formation of Sportco is not a sudden event. According to Tshidi Moshesh, public relations officer for the ministry of sport, concerns started building up after South Africa's poor performance at Barcelona in 1992 leading to the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team to probe the country's sports structures and investigate the problem. Australian sports experts were included in the task team in light of the fact that Australia, with a population of 17m, against South Africa's 45m, is rated as one of the world's top sporting nations.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

NOT ENOUGH BLACK SA OLYMPIANS

Another Olympics watcher, David Isaacson, observes that South Africa's falling medal count in successive Olympics is linked to a further worrying factor--that there are too few black Olympians. …

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Action to Halt Dismal Sporting Slide: Following a Number of Dismal and Humiliating International Sporting Results, the South African Government Has Decided on a Radical Change in the Way the Country's Sports Bodies Are Administered. Tom Nevin Reports
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