Tennis South Africa: Development and transformation plans and challenges

Sports, Arts and Culture

07 August 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Tennis South Africa (TSA) briefed the Committee on its current activities, plans for development and transformation of the sport, and challenges.  TSA had a ten year plan to develop and transform tennis in South Africa, and was currently running from seven hubs. South African tennis was ranked number one in Africa and was producing quality players. However, its main challenge was lack of funding from government, the fact that tennis was not seen as a priority, lack of support from corporate sponsors, and uncertainty as to which organisation was actually controlling school sport. Lack of media coverage, particularly from SABC, also meant that it was not seen as a priority, nor was attracting new players. Most tournaments took place overseas, which carried additional financial implications, and most schools could not afford to hire professionally-trained coaches, who also tended to base themselves in the urban areas. Whilst TSA had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Sport and Recreation (SRSA) at national level, there were problems at provincial level, where the national priorities and policies were not always followed. The South African Open championships had been cancelled and the City of Johannesburg had not renewed a contract to host the Soweto Open Tournament. It urged that municipalities should be called to the Committee account for why they were not supporting and maintaining facilities. SRSA felt that social problems would be reduced, and jobs created, if more money was spent on sport, and talented children were trained.

Members of the Committee accepted that government funding for sport was very limited, but urged that, given this, TSA should consider approaching other bodies, and being more creative in seeking funding. In particular, they suggested approaches to municipalities, National Lotteries Board, and overseas universities. However, TSA responded that it had already tried these options, and explained the results.  They also suggested that SRSA be asked to meet with
SABC to address media coverage. Members asked if TSA was consulted on the location of facilities, noted that tennis courts had been constructed in rural areas, but were never opened or used, and suggested that TSA make enquiries into why this was so. They asked about the withdrawal of support for the Soweto Open tournament, and requested more clarity on the assertion that there was lack of communication on the side of the SRSA. Further questions were asked about gender equality, whether there was a disabled team, and when South Africa was likely to produce world-class players. They urged that the business plans perhaps needed to be improved, that all federations be urged to concentrate on good management, and that programmes be created that could persuade sponsors to offer more support.

Meeting report

Tennis South Africa (TSA):  Development, Transformation plans and challenges: Briefing
Mr Bongani Zondi, President, Tennis South Africa, said that the presentation would outline the development and transformation plans for Tennis South Africa (TSA or the Association) and its challenges. The focal points of the presentation would include the modified sport of mini tennis, funding, the transition to professional games, schools, developments and tournaments.

He noted that the biggest challenge facing development of tennis was availability of national government funding.

Mr Leon Freimond, Manager: Performance Training and Coaching, Tennis South Africa, said that part of TSA’s challenge was that the Government obviously had to prioritise when making allocations but suggested that the priorities should be re-examined. There were also problems around the control of  school sport. TSA had attempted to deal with this problem by signing a memorandum of understanding between the Departments of Basic Education (DBE) and Sport and Recreation (SRSA) at national level, but there was still a problem at provincial level, when the provinces received their central funding from Government, but did not follow the national league. He had attended a meeting in the previous week, where he witnessed in-fighting by departments, and failure to follow the national policy.

Mr Iain Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Tennis South Africa, said that South Africa was “number one in Africa” in regard to development programmes for men, women, juniors, and veterans. He was of the view that only eight countries really played cricket and rugby successfully, yet tennis was played across the whole world.

Mr Smith agreed that funding was a major issue. It cost R500 000 a year to keep one child in Europe, and he explained that Europe was where tennis was played, because the expense prevented any tournaments being played in South Africa. TSA ran mass participation programmes in their hubs, where they trained the players, but struggled in reaching the next level where players had to be given formal training every single day. TSA had to pay the top coaches, and professionally-trained coaches tended to go to the cities, because that was where the most money was to be found. TSA currently had to keep transporting their top players out of their home towns, despite not wanting to do so.

Mr Zondi reiterated that TSA appreciated that government its funding challenges, and was therefore also looking at corporate. Two months ago, two teams received R1 billion in sponsorships. Mr Zondi quipped that this was seen as “treason”, and said that support must be given to children wanting to participate in all sports, particularly to keep them from unhealthy activities such as crime and drug abuse.

Mr Zondi added that TSA had a ten year plan to turn tennis around in South Africa, and urged that corporate support was needed. He said that TSA was not asking for vast amounts, but even a small amount could make a big difference. Children in Soweto were prepared to walk long distances to tennis courts, but they obviously could not play without tennis shoes, racquets and balls. Slovenia and other countries were prepared to help and partner with TSA. He also noted that it was impossible for the sportsmen and women to sustain themselves without the large tournaments, as the fact that tennis was an individual sport made it quite expensive.

Mr Smith explained that TSA could not host the South African Open because, worldwide, tournaments took place from January until November, but players wanted a smaller calendar. The South African Open had been done away with, as it took last place on the list. He added that many sports with less support struggled with television coverage. TSA could only get onto television through Super Sport, which cost R250 000 per day. SABC, on the other hand, was already supported by national government and tax-payers’ money and he appealed for SABC to give other sporting codes a chance.

Mr Zondi added that there was too much bias in South Africa in treatment of different sporting codes. SABC, for instance, was prepared to pay R5 million rand for the rights to a friendly game between Bafana Bafana and Burundi, but when TSA asked SABC to televise the Davis Cup, it had asked TSA to pay R250 000 per day. Mr Zondi concluded by saying that children learnt to play sport mostly from watching it on television, and other sports would never develop if they were not broadcast.

Mr T Lee (DA) thanked TSA for its passion about its sport. He asked if TSA had been consulted on the location of facilities, citing the example of the municipality in Port Elizabeth building 18 tennis courts far away from the people they were supposed to serve. He added that municipalities received money from the National Government, via the Municipal Infrastructure Grants (MIG), to build sporting facilities, and explained that the amounts of these grants had recently been raised, and a condition imposed that 15% of those funds should be used for sport. Mr Lee suggested that TSA approach municipalities regarding these MIG funds.

Mr Zondi responded that most municipalities unfortunately “did not know what they were doing” in regard to sport, were unable even to provide a database of the sporting facilities in their municipality, let alone maintaining them. He suggested that it would be useful if the municipalities, and the MECs for Sport, attended meetings of this Portfolio Committee, to explain why they were failing to maintain sports facilities, and state if they had MIG funds to help TSA. He suspected that many municipalities were not fully aware of the MIG funding, and that it was probably redirected to other things.

Mr Zondi added that when municipalities did build a facility for a club, they ended up leasing it to members of that club and did not even allow for development. They tended to block other people from using the facility. TSA had asked the municipalities to speak to TSA before leasing these facilities, because they had to comply with development aims, but the municipalities failed to do so.

Mr Lee said that school sport was the domain of the DBE, and asked if TSA had consulted with schools or that department.

Mr Freimond noted that part of the problem with school sports and approaches to schools was linked to fragmentation of the running of sport. The Departments of Sport and Recreation, Education, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and Regional Councils all played a role, yet there was lack of coordination. TSA did not know who should be approached in order to achieve the best advantage. The DBE had a very small sports section, which was not actually able to deal with the matter. It would help TSA if a final determination could be made on who ran school sport, so that TSA could access the available resources.

Mr Smith added that in the schools, top coaches were needed, yet because they charged so much, they were not employed. Children who had talent tended to go to private coaches, as opposed to playing at school.

Mr Lee also suggested that TSA should consider approaching the National Lotteries Board for funding.

Mr Zondi commented that TSA decided, at its last Annual General Meeting, to contact players like Wayne Ferreira and Amanda Coetzee, as well as other organisations, to see what they could contribute to development of tennis in schools and the country.

Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) said that in most rural areas there were tennis courts, which were completed in the previous year, with National Lotteries funding, yet these courts, after almost a year, were still locked and were not being utilised. Mr Dikgacwi requested that TSA identify where these courts were, and possibly start a sub development in those areas to help children get involved in tennis.

Mr Zondi replied that once TSA found out where those courts were and why they were locked, it would make every effort to fix the problem and put the facilities to use as soon as possible.

Ms L Mjobo (ANC) agreed that TSA should try approach other entities to assist them with funding. She was happy to hear TSA speak about transforming players of all colour, and urged that, in order to achieve proper transformation, the notion of colour had to be discarded.

Ms Mjobo requested clarity regarding the reasons why the City of Johannesburg discontinued its support of the Soweto Tournament.

Mr Zondi responded that when TSA started building the facility, he gave a guarantee that the facility would not be a white elephant, and that was why TSA specifically negotiated with the City of Johannesburg to hold the Soweto Open Tournament. Unfortunately, after three years of the contract, the City did not renew the Soweto Open sponsorship, because it complained about lack of funds. A new Director had since been appointed, TSA had discussed reviving the Soweto Open with her, and she was fully on board.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) said that TSA had indicated a lack of communication and consultation between itself and the SRSA, and had commented about the inability to rely on grants from SRSA. She asked TSA to elaborate on that point saying that she knew that SRSA gave grants based on the business plans the quarterly reports that were presented by associations

Mr Zondi responded that SRSA did communicate with TSA, but TSA felt that this was not quite sufficient. He commented that it was not correct to call people to a big meeting and tell them what to do about sports development. Each sporting code should be individually consulted so that each one’s needs could be separately assessed. TSA was not opposed to the big meetings being held, but felt that there should be more opportunity for interaction. TSA should also assist SRSA by providing suggestions on how the code could be assisted.

Ms Tseke also requested more elaboration on the challenges of National Lottery funding.

Mr Zondi replied that in its last meeting with SASCOC sports council, TSA was told that there was no funding available, and that although the National Lotteries Board (Lotto) was currently sitting with R350 million, half of that money would be put to rural development. TSA felt the model of funding needed to be revisited.

Ms Tseke asked about the geographical spread of tennis in South Africa, gender equality, and whether TSA had any disabled people playing tennis.

Mr Zondi replied that geographically, TSA had seven hubs around the country, which were originally funded by with Lotto money, but it was very difficult sustaining them because funding was dwindling. In regard to gender, he said that tennis was one of the few sports in the world that both men and women could play, and anyone was welcome to participate.

Mr Smith added that South Africa’s Wheelchair Tennis team was growing, and was one of the strongest in the world. The World Cup for this was held in South Africa last year. South African players were also doing exceptionally well on the international circuit. TSA had challenges in getting enough wheelchairs into the communities, and also needed coaches.

Mr Zondi added that South African Wheelchair Tennis Team was ranked number 24 in the world. South Africa also had an individual wheelchair tennis player who was ranked number 9 in the world. Wheelchair tennis was sponsored by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA). It was offered also in schools. Wheelchair tennis fell under TSA, but the team did things independently.

Mr G Mackenzie (COPE) said that TSA had to be practical, and identify certain places in the country, and certain schools, that could develop tennis, given the fact that the country had financial challenges and could not give to everyone. He further suggested that TSA should identify and build good relationships with certain schools, and send the talented players to those schools to be up-skilled. He also wondered about the possibility of establishing relationships with American and European universities, to offer bursaries to talented children, as happened with sports such as swimming. Corporate sponsors would give large amounts only if there was a programme already in place, and for this reason he suggested the promotion of a university or high school league.

Mr Zondi replied that negotiations with foreign countries were planned, in regard to sponsoring talented South African players.

Mr Smith added that TSA already did have leagues but they were not as prominent as sports such as netball, for example.

Mr S Mmusi (ANC) said that there was funding for club development and mass participation, and that tennis was also considered to be a club. He added, in regard to funding, that he had recently heard that many applicants tended to apply for Lotto funding at the very last minute, by which time the funding was already allocated elsewhere, and urged TSA to submit its requests early.

Mr Smith responded that TSA had received funding from Lotto but it had been reduced by 65% when compared to previous years. SRSA planning was done on a one-year basis only, although in fact sport needed to have five or ten-year plans. TSA had its own plans but could not plan effectively when it lacked money. TSA knew that it must not depend on government for funding, but currently had little choice, given the lack of support from private companies. TSA had also submitted a four-year plan to the National Lotteries Board, but had received an allocation for one year only, meaning that for the next year there was no Lotteries funding available.

Mr Mmusi suggested that SRSA needed to set up a meeting with the SABC to look at the small federation sports that were not getting any coverage.

Ms T Lishiva (ANC) said that in future, TSA must provide SRSA with the details of the municipalities who were giving problems, and those who were helping TSA.

The Chairperson asked when TSA was going to produce world class players, and what the programme was to achieve that. He urged TSA not to compare South Africa to the rest of the continent, saying that South Africa was more advanced, and instead that it would be useful to make a comparison to the rest of the world, to assess how far it was moving forward.

The Chairperson added that other sports codes also had money problems, but were functioning well because they were organised. Money would always be a problem, so TSA should have a systematic development programme in place. The Committee could assist TSA to a certain extent, but, being a federation, it should also improve its organisation. The Committee hoped to see actual results from the TSA presentation.

Mr Smith responded that TSA was mindful that its development programmes should be producing champions, but said that at the end of the day it still boiled down to funding. Players such as Serena Williams and Maria Sharipova had millions of dollars in support, with sponsorships and their own governments behind them. TSA did have ongoing programmes and was producing players, but the problem was to get the players to the next level to compete against international stars.

Mr Smith stressed that if TSA could get media coverage through television, it could get sponsorships and would be able to generate enough income to have more tournaments in South Africa in which the local players could compete.

Mr S Mmusi said that the Committee should meet with the provincial departments and the MECs.

Mr Mmusi insisted that TSA must work with SRSA on National Lottery funding. Although supporting letters could be provided to TSA, it must have a development programme. Other sports engaged with the SRSA, and not with the MECs. He reiterated that the funding was never enough to go round. However, if a code could not fully utilise what it was given, it would not develop. There was money for mass participation and club development, but TSA needed to present SRSA with a good business plan.

Mr Zondi said that if more money was spent on sport, this would address many other issues such as reducing crime, creating a healthy society and creating jobs. Children who were not academically inclined, but showed sporting talent, could be trained and ultimately create a better society.

Mr Zondi agreed it was TSA’s responsibility to take tennis to the next level. Whilst it accepted that funding was limited, some things also needed be revisited, to enable it to move forward.  TSA would do its part, but he asked the Committee also to ask SRSA for a breakdown of its own funding responsibilities. He reiterated his plea that municipalities also must be invited to tell SRSA how they were assisting TSA, in terms of consultation, building and maintenance of facilities.

Mr Zondi finally noted that TSA had last met with the Committee five years previously, and appealed for more regular meetings so that TSA could account and report on its activities.

The Chairperson thanked TSA for the presentation, accepted that there were not enough resources available for sport, but still urged that management of sport needed to be tightened. He congratulated TSA on the work done. He agreed that sport was an ideal pillar for social change. He confirmed that the Members would read all the documentation provided and engage constructively with TSA. Finally, he concluded that there would be changes now the new sports plan had been accepted by Government.

The meeting was adjourned.


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