The Committee on Sport and Recreation met with the delegation of the Committee for Sports of the German Bundestag to discuss sports and youth development projects and areas of cooperation. After a brief introduction, both committees promptly decided to get straight into discussion due to the limited time available, and therefore agreed on having two rounds of questions.
The main topics of discussion in the first round included the importance of sport for society; the need for transformation in sport; the need for professional coaching/training; development projects; alternative sporting options to introduce, and the funding of these projects. The second round was shorter in time, but broadly discussed issues around the importance of grassroots programmes; facilities for sport to develop; relations between the main role players in sport and government; as well as a sporting curriculum in school systems and legislation.
The German delegation suggested a range of programmes that were available that could assist South Africa in developing their own successful sporting programmes. They did however mention that they also faced problems, despite their relative success, and that they would be costly to implement properly in South Africa. Their support focussed on “help you to help yourself” type of programmes, investing in people rather than in establishing facilities. They encouraged the Committee to at least start pursuing some plans. The Chairperson said they would keep in touch and that there would be a sharing of contacts and connections for further correspondence.
The Chairperson welcomed the committee members and the German delegation of eight to the meeting. She began by commending the Germans on several of their achievements, the most notable of which was the winning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup by their football team. She told the Chairperson from the German delegation, Ms Dagmar Freitag, that she had made several observations in terms of legislative comparisons between the two countries, as well as the different ways of developing a democratic and non-racial sporting system in South Africa. There had already been plans underway to construct school sports systems and to develop best practices for national federations. However, she acknowledged that a lot more could be done and therefore called for synergy and co-ordination with other governmental systems. As a Committee, it was important for them to promote sport as a means by which to develop societies.
Ms Freitag began her introductory remarks by sharing the conviction that sport was important for society at all levels, and not only with regard to high performance sport. Football was without a doubt the easiest way to reach young people, although they had a variety of sports they could offer to South Africa, such as handball and swimming. There were a variety of funding options to develop sports in the country, and they would discuss them during the course of the meeting. Briefly she outlined one of those options, describing a programme where sports coaches from South Africa could get professional training with the advantage of possibly learning how to speak the German language. Alternatively, they could offer sports experts from Germany to come and train here, but that would require an application by the Committee on Sport and Recreation. Overall, the committee had long and short-term projects on offer with a wide variety of possibilities which they were willing to assist the SA committee with.
Ms Dlulane said that as a committee, they had been focusing a lot of their efforts on bringing about transformation with regard to their portfolio. Specifically, they had been talking about rural area transformation and how best to carry it out, and she asked the German delegation to bear that in mind in discussing the different ways in which rural transformation could be carried out.
She then opened the floor to the Committee Members to engage with the visiting German delegation.
Mr D Bergman (DA) opened the discussion by saying that due to South Africa’s history sport has always been, and continues to be, underestimated. He said that sport needed to stay on the agenda in order to promote its potential and that this was important for the Committee to pursue. He spoke of how he had once attended a football match in Germany and noticed that the stadiums were always full and the system of getting people out of the stadium was efficient. However, in South Africa it was a challenge getting people interested in sport.
Mr M Mabika (NFP) asked what made the German government budget so well for sport. Sport and Recreation often received very little funding in South Africa due to the government prioritising other issues. Why did the Germans receive enough for their projects? South Africa needed to persuade and convince its own government to put more funding into sport. In terms of the sports experts that had been mentioned earlier, the Committee was more concerned with rural sports development, and he would be interested in hearing the German delegation’s views on how best to tackle this issue.
Ms D Manana (ANC) asked how they got other departments in the German government to engage in sport? She wanted to know how they managed co-ordination and synergy when trying to work with other government departments. She made reference to a project that had been carried out in rural areas of Germany during the World Cup, and asked how they had carried it out successfully. She asked if the Germans would be willing to assist South Africa in implementing a similar project.
Ms Freitag first addressed the question on the management of many people in stadiums by saying that they had many people attending football matches in only one of the leagues, and not all of them. The highest attendance was recorded normally in Munich, and sometimes in Dortmund. One of the key reasons for that being successful was their functional and efficient transport system. However, there were incidents of riots between opposing supporters, which indicated that everything was not going as well as it may have looked on the outside.
There was a well functioning system for grassroots sports, where children get into football clubs as early as the age of five or six. In terms of the money and funding of sport, the grassroots sports were funded by the cities, while the high performance sports were funded by the department. The department spends a lot on sport because of the many benefits of sport, such as health education and encouraging a culture of wellness. She gave an example of how the delegation had visited Khayelitsha, where there was a project called Amandla which introduced sport in a particular area, and the resulting reduction of crime and violence that had followed as a result. She was of the view that a lot could be done to help young people get educated, and that sport would be key to doing so. Sport teaches children how to be fair.
In terms of sports being developed in rural areas, she said she could not promise that their projects would be rural-area oriented. They would more likely be programmes where coaches or people were trained in a city programme, and then went to the rural areas to pass on the knowledge – a “snow-balling effect”.
Mr S Ralegoma (ANC) asked how they supported their federations, as well as what the relationship between them was like. He had noticed that there were two different ministers in the department -- one tasked with development in sport and one tasked with the administrative duties.
Mr S Mmusi (ANC) said in South Africa there was a National Development Plan and that in sports they also had a development plan called the NSRP (National Sport and Recreation Plan), which they could not get funded. He asked how they argued their point to get the government to fully support and fund sport. It seemed deceptively easy that the Germans had managed to have sports fused into the curriculum, while in South Africa it was a huge challenge. How did they do it?
Ms B Abrahams (ANC) said there were problems with substance abuse and wanted to know how they tackled such issues. She asked what kind of youth programmes were available and if they ever used popular retired sports alumni for their programmes. She also asked what development programmes they had implemented.
Mr P Moteka (EFF) said that sports facilities in South Africa were situated mostly in cities. This was a big problem that needed to be rectified immediately. He requested that the German delegation take those sentiments home and help to develop a partnership project with South Africa that would result in the building of sports facilities for the poorest of the poor. Rural areas were vulnerable and needed urgent attention.
Mr M Malatsi (DA) addressed the issue of gender in sport, and asked about the level of gender representivity in federations. It had been shown that male athletes received more lucrative deals than female athletes and this was an issue that needed attention. He asked why this was the case? He also wanted to know what the state of gender representivity at the leadership level was.
Ms Freitag said that the German government did not fund sport directly, but that there was a German Olympic sports federation that acted as a middle-man in the process and talked on their behalf to secure funds. In terms of the relations and impact of their department on government federations, she said they respected the autonomy of sports in Germany – “We do not tell them what to do”. The decisions were generally made within the sports system.
She addressed the question of sport as part of the curriculum in the school system by saying that in Germany, sport was deemed important as a matter of common sense, and it was agreed that it belonged in the curriculum. The only problem they faced was that of some teachers were not adequately qualified for teaching sports.
In terms of the sports expert programme, she said they had tried it a couple of years ago in South Africa, but there had been a leadership change during its implementation which had stopped the whole project. However, she encouraged the federations to re-apply in order to be considered for the programme.
Germany had managed to tackle the problem of substance abuse thanks to the prevention programmes run by the German Anti-Doping Agency. Their Federal Institute for Health Education also ran a programme to fight substance abuse.
Their programmes for development in sports were not comparable, because sports were embedded within the German society and were thus part of the culture. She said, however, that grassroots sports were just as important as top-level sports.
On the question of rural areas, and how to develop sports, she said that it was a question of facilities. They would not, however, fund the building of facilities as the purpose of their funding was more of a “help you to help yourself” type. She said they funded more into people.
As for the gender question, she said that unfortunately she was only one of the two women on a board of ten and that there was a need to address this concern, even in their government. The problem was even worse in other federations, and part of the problem was finding women who were willing to lead. Regarding male athletes getting more lucrative deals than women, she said that it was a question for sponsors, and gave an example of how the German women’s football team had been the most successful team for years, but did not earn as much as their male counterparts. It was a worldwide problem.
Mr Ozcan Mutlu, a member of the German delegation, said that they had well-functioning and efficient sports facilities. This was very important, but was also very expensive. Sports were good for learning, and sports training courses were conducted at university level. They also had compulsory swimming lessons for every child at third grade, so the onus is on South Africa to start the process.
Closing Remarks by the Chairperson
Ms B Dlulane (ANC), Chairperson of the Committee, said she had noticed that the German legislation supported sports being included in the school curriculum. The Committee wanted to learn lessons from the German system and would try to make an impact by convincing whoever they needed to convince in government. There would be efforts to try and implement the ideas that had been discussed, as well as looking into the possibility of amending the legislation to suit these needs. She also expressed the Committee’s desire to visit Germany in order to have a first-hand look at the projects and programmes that were being discussed. She asked for an invitation from the German department to go to the country to see what was going on. She acknowledged that there were notably huge differences in budgeting for sport which would have to be taken into account.
Mr Ralegoma thanked the German delegation for coming to the meeting and expressed the Committee’s appreciation for the discussions that had taken place.
The meeting was adjourned.
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