London Olympics Development Plans and Team Preparations Briefing

Sports, Arts and Culture

13 June 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

Athletics South Africa (ASA) said that South Africa had athletes that could compete at the highest level and would be in contention for medals in this coming Olympics. 

The Department of Sports and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) had given ASA a R1 million grant to assist in the preparation of the South African team for the 2012 Olympics.  ASA had initially budgeted and requested R1.6 million, but only received R1 million, so ASA had to adjust its budget accordingly.  A large portion of the funds were used for assisting athletes to travel overseas to compete, mostly to Europe.  Several athletes had already qualified, and there were still a number of international competitions remaining that would hopefully result in additional athletes qualifying to London.

South Africa’s youth programmes were performing well internationally, increasing hope for improvement when looking at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics. 

Although the Junior and Schools Championships were combined into one championship in 2012, the existence of parallel structures was creating unnecessary duplication.  SRSA and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) were looking to again have separate championships in 2013.  SRSA was threatening to undermine consolidation efforts.   Fortunately the Minister of Basic Education and the Minister of Sport and Recreation South Africa had reached an agreement to support efforts at grassroots level.  Given the Government’s continued financial support for separate structures, the prospect of combining efforts in the long-term seemed unlikely. 

Coaching was the biggest problem currently, as coaching structures had collapsed.  ASA was working with South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) to develop a proper syllabus to qualify and train coaches and improve standards. 

The Culture Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) was also supporting ASA in a number of programmes.  The standard and quality of club administration remained one of the biggest challenges.

Corporate governance was still an issue.  The main problem was at the club and the provincial level, as some clubs were dysfunctional, and, consequently, it was athletes who suffered.  ASA planned to realign its boundaries with political boundaries.  The current constitution needed dramatic amending, but this would be taken care of in the near future.  Lastly, funding remained erratic, as it rendered it impossible to plan ahead not knowing the future financial situation.

Members asked questions regarding the funding received from SASCOC and DBE, the refusal of SRSA to fund ASA, the status of sponsorships, aligning demarcations to political demarcations, efforts to amend or redraft ASA’s constitution, addressing the challenge of dysfunctional clubs, ensuring that South African athletes did not use drugs, the proper singing of the national anthem, and the impact that having parallel school and federation structures had on the development of young athletes.

Meeting report

Mr James Evans, ASA President, said this had been a challenging year given the previous history of ASA, and the current administration had not had a full four-year term to prepare prior to the London 2012 Olympics.  However, South Africa had athletes that could compete at the highest level and would be in contention for medals.  Although ASA would not make any predictions on the number of medals South Africa would win, the South African team was competitive and most athletes should make the final rounds in their sports, where anything was possible.

SRSA had given ASA a R1 million grant to assist in the preparation of the South African team for the 2012 Olympics.  ASA had initially budgeted and requested R1.6 million, but only received R1 million, so ASA had to adjust accordingly.  R95 000 was used for participation in World Cup of Race Walking in Russia.  Although race walking had not been a big sport in South Africa for a long time, ASA sent a team of 20 race walkers to the competition where Marc Mundell achieved the standard for Olympic qualification and was selected for the SA Olympic Team. 

Also, a large portion of the funds were used for assisting athletes to travel overseas to compete, mostly to Europe.  Most of the funds were spent on travel (flights, visas, etc.) expenses since organisations holding the competitions generally paid for athletes’ accommodation and stay.  ASA had decided to support athletes in the A and B standard.  Those just outside the standard that had met the standard previously also got some support, although not as much (refer to presentation pages 1-2 for a list of 29 athletes who received funding).

The largest bulk of the budget (R990 500) was spent to send the South African team to the Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) African Senior Athletics Championships in Benin from 26 June to 1 July 2012.  This was the last opportunity athletes would have to qualify in terms of the SASCOC criteria.  Overall, direct spend on athlete preparation for the Olympics amounted to R1 348 400.  South Africa should finish first in Africa (finished third in 2010). 

In terms of fixtures held in preparation for London 2012, the South African Marathon Championships held in George resulted in finalising the men and women marathon teams, and the men’s team was particularly strong.  Fortunately the Yellow Pages again sponsored several events, which allowed ASA to put together several meetings. 

Several athletes had already qualified (see presentation page 3).  There were still a number of international competitions occurring before the African Championships that would hopefully result in additional athletes qualifying to London (for a list of athletes still competing abroad, see presentation pages 2-3).  Currently ASA was working with SASCOC to put together the best possible team by providing competition opportunities, although they had not been able to put in place all the programmes intended given the administration problems ASA had had in the last few years.

In terms of development, ASA was still designing a full development programme.  ASA was implementing a new Street Athletics Programme to identify talent by taking athletics to the streets since many children had no access to facilities.  The community-wide events offered music and dancing to entertain the community and get everyone involved and interested.  This initiative was intended to improve the quality and change the composition of the future South African Olympic teams.  For instance, there were currently no black disk throwers because disk throwing was only offered at schools with predominantly white students with access to facilities.  The Street Athletics Programme, thus, intended to tackle accessibility issues by fostering children’ interests in different sports. 

The World Athletics Day tried to get all the countries in the world to participate, and South Africa had recently participated for the first time.  There were three incentives: the Club Athletics Programme in Pretoria, the Kids Athletic Programme in Cape Town, and the Schools Athletic Programme in Durban.

The Kids Athletics Programme was meant to develop proper skills in primary school athletes without undue stress and avoiding early specialisation.  The programme was inexpensive (around R3 000 for an athletics pack) and did not require facilities, so participation involved very little cost and could be done anywhere throughout the country.  A full league system was in place in Cape Town, but the current official primary schools programme was hindering the introduction of the programme. 

South Africa’s youth programmes were performing well internationally, increasing hope for improvement when looking at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.  South Africa was sixth in the medal table at the World Youth Championship last year, and then at the Africa Junior Championships in Botswana the South African team dominated. 

The National Youth Squad included life skills training, as well as instituting motivational coaching, nutrition, personality types, drugs, and integrated human physiological conditioning.

Although the Junior and Schools Championships were combined into one championship in 2012, the existence of parallel structures was creating unnecessary duplication.  SRSA and DBE were looking to again have separate championships in 2013.  Given the Government’s continued financial support for separate structures, the prospect of combining efforts in the long-term seemed unlikely. 

Coaching was the biggest problem currently, as coaching structures had collapsed.  ASA was working with SASCOC to develop a proper syllabus to qualify and train coaches and improve standards. 

CATHSSETA was also supporting ASA in a number of programmes.  The standard and quality of club administration remained one of the biggest challenges.

Corporate governance was still an issue.  ASA had successfully put programmes in place, but as a not-for-profit entity, ASA was bound by the provisions in the Companies Act, so ASA was putting protections in place to ensure compliance with governance policy.  The main problem was at the club and the provincial level, as some clubs were dysfunctional and, consequently, it was athletes who suffered.  ASA had to realign its boundaries with political boundaries.  ASA was looking to follow 52 districts, but then it would have to find 52 different administrators, which would also present a challenge.  At the same time, starting from scratch also offered advantages.

The current constitution needed dramatic amending, but this would be taken care of in the near future.  Also the schools athletics system needed Government assistance.  SRSA was threatening to undermine consolidation efforts.   Fortunately the Minister of Basic Education and Minister of Sports and Recreation had reached an agreement to support efforts at grassroots level.  Lastly, funding remained erratic.  Not knowing its future financial situation, ASA found it impossible to plan ahead.

Discussion

Ms T Lishivha (ANC) asked how much funding ASA received from the DBE and SASCOC.  Also, even though the Kids Athletics Programme was inexpensive, who would fund the programme in the future?

Mr T Lee (DA) asked how the fact that SRSA rejected ASA funding impacted ASA’s preparation for the Olympics.  He then emphasised that South Africa must prevent the embarrassment inflicted by athletes failing drug tests and asked what ASA was doing to ensure that all South African Olympians were clean from drug use.  Since athletes generally began playing sports during school, DBE’s involvement in the development of young athletes was imperative.  Thus, to what extent was the DBE involved? And what was the status of negotiations between ASA and DBE?  Regarding the financial problems ASA’s current administration inherited from the previous administration, was ASA on track to recover its debts? What steps was ASA taking on debt recovery?  Lastly, mentioned that an organisation called “Lovelife” had plenty of funds and had organised around 140 athletics events the previous month.  Did ASA work or have any contact with Lovelife?

Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) asked ASA to explain the discrepancy in amounts given to athletes for Olympic preparatory events, where most received R10 000 but others received less (see presentation page 1).  He then asked why SRSA had withdrawn ASA’s funding.  Regarding sponsors, did the South African Olympic team have enough sponsors?  Lastly, noting that often federations set their own demarcations, were the demarcations of the provinces in line with the Government’s demarcations?

Mr G MacKenzie (COPE) asked why ASA felt its constitution required amending.  Regarding finances, he asked whether ASA had had audited financials and whether the financials were qualified or unqualified.  Did ASA have any programmes to address the challenge of dysfunctional clubs?  Regarding the instability of funding from the National Lotteries Board (LOTTO), agreeing that ASA could not plan to create future Olympic winners without sound financial footing, what steps was ASA taking to secure funding?

Ms G Tseke (ANC) asked how ASA would address the differences between the school structure and the federation structure in order to implement ASA’s vision going forward.  How did ASA plan to identify talent and provide adequate support to children in rural areas?

Mr S Mmusi (ANC) commended ASA on its Kids Athletics Programme.  However, he expressed concern over the fact that this programme had not been rolled out throughout the country and had so far been limited to certain areas.  Also, expressing concern over the embarrassment produced by athletes singing the national anthem incorrectly, he asked what ASA was doing to ensure that Olympians knew the how to properly sing the anthem.

Mr Evans replied that the problems with LOTTO funding had been on-going for a long time.  Since the LOTTO funding application closed in September 2010, ASA did not receive any LOTTO funding for the next two years.  Thus, ASA continued to work with the 2010 allocation.  Ultimately, due to these difficulties, ASA had learned to function without depending on LOTTO funding.  However, ASA would continue to apply for LOTTO funding in the future. 

Regarding the SRSA funding issues, in 2011, with ASA’s administrative problems and the general manager under suspension, a lot of administrative work was not getting done.  ASA submitted the SRSA documents after the deadline and, thus, SRSA denied ASA’s funding application.  Failure to secure SRSA funding affected the amount of support ASA was able to provide to certain programmes (e.g. Street Athletics).  Ultimately, having less funds available definitely impacted ASA’s efforts to prepare the Olympic team.

The Kids Athletics Programme was very inexpensive at R3 000 per pack.  However, ASA did not have the funds to fund packs for 30 000 schools throughout the country.  Where implemented, the programme had been relying on private funding.  In the absence of private funding, it was necessary for the provincial athletics bodies to buy into the programme and help support it.  However, support from the provincial departments had not yet been secured.  The provincial departments were spending a lot of money on bus transportation of children to different areas.  Instead, South Africa could collectively achieve better results in athletics development by rechanneling the money given to bus companies and investing it into these athletics packs for the local schools.

Regarding the parallel school and federation structures, Mr Evans acknowledged that some federations were doing good work.  ASA’s relationship with SRSA had been rocky in the past but had been improving over the past year.  However, after combining structures this year, SRSA was planning on returning to separate structures next year, which was a step backwards. 

The impasse between the administrations of SRSA and DBE were the main challenge to resolving this issue.  SRSA was no longer funding schools championships and only recognise federation championships.  This led to a confusing situation in which, in any given competition, there were two South African champions, one under each structure.  Under the combined structure this past year, only one championship was held.  Although the children enjoyed it, the administrators did not because it was less glamorous. 

This challenge extended to the provincial level, as the provincial departments were not assisting ASA on this issue.  The solution was to combine efforts and channel the funding to one improved single system, but this was not currently being done.  

Mr Evans assured the portfolio committee that every South African athlete in the Olympics would be clean from drug use.  Although ASA was not in charge of drug testing itself, South Africa had one of the strongest anti-doping systems.  He acknowledged that there had been five failed drug tests this past year, but those were by ill-informed school children taking supplements or steroids.  Unfortunately, one would have been a medal contender.  Recreational drug-use also posed a challenge.  ASA acknowledged that not enough was being done to educate athletes throughout the country. 

ASA needed to meet with both the DBE and SRSA to tackle the coaching problem throughout the country.  The problem was not that there were not enough coaches but that coaches tended to push children too hard and tried to create Olympic superstars at age 16.  School coaches needed to be properly educated to train and develop young athletes.

ASA’s loans to the directors were included in its financial statements.  Although there were current efforts to recover these loans, ASA was in the process of assessing whether recovery efforts were worthwhile.  ASA would continue to conduct this process through the proper legal channels.

As for sponsors, Yellow Pages had fortunately sponsored several events again this past year.  Although the Yellow Pages contract had come to an end, ASA was still negotiating for a future contract.  ASA did not have any headline sponsors at the moment but negotiations were on-going with a number of sponsors, and interest was rising among sponsors.  ASA had also secured other relatively small sponsors.

ASA had gone on a major drive the previous year teaching children how to properly sing the national anthem and hold the flag. 

ASA had had contact with Lovelife in the past, but unfortunately the two were not currently working together.

ASA did not currently comply with demarcations, but this issue had been recently raised.  It had been decided that ASA would comply with demarcations.  ASA hoped to achieve this in the near future and did not foresee this becoming a problem.

Redrafting the current constitution was a better option than amending it.  The constitution had been written during unification and the law had changed significantly since 1996.  The current constitution also had major drafting deficiencies that gave rise to questions of interpretation.

As for the dysfunctional clubs throughout South Africa, apparently it was up to local athletic bodies to decide who could form a club.  In some cases only five members were required to form a club.  It was necessary to establish national minimum standards to ensure that clubs adequately supported their athletes. 

Mr Frik Vermaak, ASA Chief Executive Officer, said ASA had spent a total of R1.346 million this past year in Olympic preparation.  ASA had received R1 million from SRSA plus an additional R300 000 from SASCOC for the Benin competition.


Regarding the discrepancy in funds allocated to individual athletes (see presentation pages 1-2), awards of R10 000 had been given to all athletes who had qualified for A or B standards.  Smaller amounts had been awarded to a number of athletes that had proven themselves in the past but had not yet qualified.  For instance, Anika Smit, a past Commonwealth champion in high jump, was given a R5 000 award because, as a previous champion she had a high potential of qualification.  ASA was working prudently with this money and had an established system for awarding funds. 

ASA’s budget ranged from R30-35 million per year.  This was a very small amount when compared to the average cricket, rugby, or soccer team.  Yet ASA would bring the bulk of the medals at the Olympics.  This was important to place ASA’s financial capabilities in context.  This comparison also served to explain athletes’ complaints for lack of monthly financial support.  If ASA had the budget size of a professional rugby team, much more could be done to support Olympic athletes. 

ASA’s funds came from different sources.  First, LOTTO issued erratic and unpredictable funds.  Second, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) broadcasting rights produced relatively small amounts in comparison to the broadcasting rights funds to other sports federations.  Third, ASA received funds from sponsorships.  A lot of sponsors had been waiting for ASA to settle its broadcasting rights and for stability in ASA’s administration, which was achieved after the recent elections.  ASA would soon be signing a contract with SABC for Olympics broadcasting rights and for the next three years.  Also ASA would not be contracting with paid television broadcasters given ASA’s vision that its sports should be widely available to the people.  Overall, positive developments had occurred in terms of sponsorships in the past six months.  And currently, ASA was progressing in terms of sponsorships.

The SRSA and DBE parallel structures system was unfortunately hampering several efforts for developing young athletes.  There needed to be agreement between SRSA and DBE, and ASA would then follow their footsteps.  ASA had the vision that children had to be participating in schools, between schools, within the school system on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  ASA could only support whatever structures were present, and, unfortunately, there was not a coherent structure in place at the moment. 

Whenever the inter school programme rolled out, advantaged schools would participate in this structure and it would be very hard for disadvantaged schools to participate.  This was not sustainable and needed to be addressed.  It was clear that the vast majority of South Africa’s talent was not in the current developed schools that were predominantly white but in the disadvantaged schools with predominantly black children.  Unfortunately, South Africa’s athletics system was primed only for a small minority of the population; the system was not adequately tapping into the vast majority of the population to identify young talent. 

Regarding the parallel school and federation championships and the recent efforts to separate the competitions again for next year, quite often the children crowned as national champions would have nowhere else to go and no next level to progress to.  Most often, only the federation champions progressed to the international competitions.  This obstructed the development of South African athletes and needed to be addressed.  A step in the right direction would be to maintain and develop this past year’s format of holding combined championships.

Regarding the Kids Athletics Programme, unfortunately there were many athletics packs out there that coaches were not using.  Often coaches refused to use the packs because they wanted children to perform, as this would make the coach appear to be a great coach.  These coaches unduly regarded the athletics packs as play material insufficient for developing athletes.  Kids were being pushed too early, and this hampered their development.  For instance, South Africa was likely the only country in the world with a national primary school championship. 

Another challenge was the existence of three or four different school athletics systems.  Originally, athletics competitions occurred during the summer.  Over time, the English schools began holding separate competitions in September.  Then Afrikaans schools began to follow their own rules.  The disadvantaged schools remained following the summer competition systems.  And then there were schools with no athletics programmes.  This lack of cohesion also obstructed national development of young athletes. 

Regarding drugs, many South African children were being misled by unqualified sports nutritionists who fed children certain substances that led to failed drug tests.  This was being addressed by spreading information to educate those most vulnerable to this problem.  For instance, information leaflets were disseminated at senior and junior championships.  Athletes were hungry for this information.  Additionally, ASA was conducting a life skills programme to make sure drug use would not be a problem during international competitions.

Educators needed to be part of athletics family, and it was necessary to adequately train coaches.  Thankfully CATHSSETA provided some money to assist with this programme.  ASA was also helping some athletics programmes to achieve CATHSSETA accreditation so that additional funds would be made available to the programmes. 

ASA’s 2011 financials had been recently signed off by the General Council, and the financials had been properly audited.  ASA received only one qualification on the verification of receipt of cash.  This was because auditors could not fully verify situations where cash was received at various points.  Thus, for all intents and purposes ASA had clean financials.  Unfortunately ASA reported a financial loss last year, but this was understandable given the past issues that had to be cleaned up.  This would not be a problem the following year, unless ASA did not receive the expected funding.

In order to prevent mistakes and embarrassment with the flag and the national anthem, ASA was working to teach athletes how to properly handle the flag and sing the national anthem.  Additionally, the anthem was currently being taught in schools, so this would help to ensure that children would sing it properly.

Regarding club administration throughout the country, it was important to address the problems without suppressing the system by disallowing the forming of clubs. The goal was not to dissolve clubs but to educate clubs on adequate financial controls and drafting a proper constitution.  It was necessary to have clubs everywhere, and it was unsustainable to have clubs only in formal areas. 

Mr Hezekiel Sepeng, ASA Development, said even though ASA did not receive SRSA funding, ASA decided to move forward with the Kids Athletics Programme, but only in certain areas (starting with Gauteng) so that next year ASA would be able to back up its funding request with a running, successful programme.  ASA decided to start the programme in West Rand since it would not cost much.  Fortunately, the West Rand sports department strongly supported the programme. Unfortunately, however, the municipalities did not offer support to begin programmes in the rural areas. Mr Sepeng was hopeful that SRSA would support this programme next year with a proven record of success.

Present

  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: