Basketball SA: development programmes; transformation, governance, annual report, National Basketball League

Sports, Arts and Culture

18 August 2015
Chairperson: Ms B Dlulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Basketball South Africa (Basketball SA) briefed the Committee on its development programmes, transformation and governance-related issues, its annual report and financial statements, and the National Basketball League.

The organisation said that its biggest challenge was that it could not grow basketball when the provinces, except for Gauteng, had no dedicated basketball facilities. Additionally, gate-keeping by certain individuals in the provinces also affected the development of the sport. It was appealing therefore to the Committee to assist it in its endeavours to forge better partnerships with local government.

It was exploring converting some of the netball infrastructure in the disadvantaged communities of the country. There had been engagements with a possible donor willing to assist the organisation with mini-basketball development in township schools.

Another challenge that Basketball SA faced was that sponsors were reluctant to put their money into a business that constantly received bad press coverage. As such, the organisation had learnt to ignore unsubstantiated negative media cover, even though it did immense damage to its image.

The Committee was concerned about the gender imbalance of the delegation and said the organogram was even worse, as there were only three women in the Basketball SA leadership. In that regard, it wanted to know what initiatives there were to make the women’s BNL as prolific and high stakes as the actual BNL, and what other more meaningful outcomes-based programme it had to bridge the gap between representivity on the field of play and senior administration for women.

The Committee also asked what instruments Basketball SA used to measure the number of participants in the sport and how it categorised that factor, in terms of the figures presented. Had any further action been taken against the former executive of Basketball SA, which had technically bankrupted the administration of the sport? Had Basketball SA refunded the R6.9 million grants that the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) had demanded it return? Could the organisation also provide clarity on the operational structure between itself and the BNL and the percentage control between it and the BNL? How was it capitalising on the recent game between the NBA all-stars and the NBA all-Africa stars, as such events attracted capacity crowds and offered opportunities to reposition the sport in generating more interest and attracting the much needed potential partnerships? How involved was the organisation in developing that event, and how much income did it make from it -- or how much cost had it incurred as a result? 

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed all present, and asked that a moment of silence be observed for Claude Booysen, of Humansdorp All Blacks rugby club, and Freddie Arries, Tierberg Rebels rugby club, both club competition rugby players who had died during and after matches on the weekend of 15 August 2015. She asked the Committee for at least two Members to avail themselves to attend each of the funerals.

She said that she had issued a statement on the Committee’s stance on transformation in sport.

Deliberation on reports and programmes
The Committee Secretary informed the Committee that its recent draft oversight report had been completed and was awaiting procedural approval from the Office of the House Chairperson, before been considered by the Committee. She also referred to the Committee’s draft programme for the remaining weeks of the third term.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that the Chairperson’s Forum had agreed that Committees in the National Assembly (NA) should work in conjunction with those in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in conducting a provincial week of constituency work and oversight. However, some of the proposals had not been final, and the Management Committee (MANCO) together with complementary staff, still had to get some clarity from Parliament. 

The Committee then deliberated on its programme.

The Chairperson asked the delegation from Basketball South Africa (Basketball SA) to apologise to the Committee for being so late.

Mr Graham Abrahams, President, Basketball SA, stood up and sincerely apologised to the Committee and SA at large on behalf of his delegation, more so as the matter had already been posted on social media that the organisation had arrived late for the briefing.

The Chairperson asked the Committee to refrain from posting Committee business on social media without first affording guests the opportunity to explain themselves, as that was divisive. The Chairperson accepted the apology on behalf of the Committee and the SA public.

Mr Abrahams first apologised for members of his organisation who had originally been reflected on communication with Parliament as those who would be present, but were absent on the day. He then introduced his delegation.

Basketball South Africa presentation

Mr Abrahams said the national Under-16 basketball team had just returned from Mali, where it had been participating in the AfroBasket 2015 competition. The hotel at which the team had been staying had been attacked, but fortunately the officials who had been with those children had kept contact with Basketball SA on occurrences. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) had done outstandingly in ensuring the safe return of those players, but unfortunately social media had never got that story. Moreover, the children had unfortunately lost their luggage on their return home.

Mr Abrahams said that the organisation’s biggest challenge was that it could not grow basketball when all the provinces, with the exception of Gauteng, had no facilities that were dedicated solely to basketball.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) asked how basketball could be made as accessible as netball, in terms of equipment and basic facilities in schools and communities. How could the sport be extended to other disabled persons, besides those who were wheelchair bound?   

Mr P Moteka (EFF) wanted to know how the sport could be made available to rural communities. Could the leadership provide contacts for structures in provinces?

Mr M Malatsi (DA) wanted clarity on the vast increase in expenditure reflected in the financial statements of 2012/13 and 2013/14 for travel, general expenditure and employee costs. He also asked for a detailed breakdown of the aggregated sponsorships listed in the presentation, and how they had been used. What instruments did Basketball SA use to measure the numbers of participants in the sport, and how did it categorise that factor in the figures presented? What approach was the organisation taking in enhancing participation, seeing that basketball required a specific type of facility? What engagements had it been having with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) in lobbying for the use of municipal facilities?

Mr D Bergman (DA) said he had been excited in 2014 when Minister Mbalula had said that that year would be the year of basketball. He had expected basketball to flourish in a manner almost similar to the American National Basketball Association (NBA). Alas, the Basketball National League (BNL), a company of Basketball SA, had never taken off. He had never seen such a qualified audit opinion for an entity from the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA). He felt the vision statement of Basketball SA sounded a bit arrogant, and could possibly frighten off sponsorships, and even individuals in the game. He asked why the statement could not be, ‘making basketball a household sport.’

Having looked at sport focus schools, the biggest challenge that the Committee had found was that some sports had fewer barriers to entry, and basketball was such a sport -- similar in fact to boxing. However, the sport required a particular facility. Additionally, when looking at the local leagues in Gauteng, one found that club owners ran and sponsored them, and Basketball SA could capitalize on that.

The bigger challenge with basketball -- and even boxing -- where the demographics were already suited in terms of transformation and mass participation, was that both were riddled with corruption and power-plays, such that both had been put under administration and entire Boards had had to be replaced, leaving no experiential legacy. With the resurrection of both sports, compliance was the key issue. Unfortunately, that influenced the hosting of tournaments, high performance throughput and mass participation. How then was the sport sector to promote mass participation, while maintaining good governance and compliance?

Mr S Mmusi (ANC) asked what interventions the new leadership had put in place to fix the administrative challenges of the game. How committed was Basketball SA to making basketball accessible to rural communities? Was the President not conflicted by his dual role as Vice Chairperson of the Basketball National League (BNL) as well?

Ms D Manana (ANC) lamented the gender imbalance of the delegation, and said the organogram was even worse, as there were only three women in Basketball SA’s leadership structure. She asked whether any further action had been taken against the former executive of Basketball SA who had technically bankrupted the administration of the sport. How many schools’ basketball leagues had the organisation introduced? Had Basketball SA refunded the R6.9 million in grants that the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) had demanded it return?

Mr S Ralegoma (ANC) said that the Committee had to be cautious about associating corruption with mass-participation sporting codes. Basketball SA had to be cautious of the tensions that were going to develop between itself and the BNL in order to avoid issues similar to those between the South African Football Association (SAFA) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL).

The Chairperson reiterated Ms Manana’s sentiments about what inroads Basketball SA had made into schools’ basketball leagues.

Mr Sanele Mthiyane, Vice President: Basketball SA, said that as presented in the pyramid in the model for the success of Basketball SA, mass participation and development spoke to schools, clubs, youth, the disabled, referees, coaches, table officials and administrators.
Basketball SA was engaging with both Sports and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to focus on the two departments’ top schools programme, to include basketball development.

Though infrastructure was the main barrier to rural access to basketball, the organisation had got SALGA on board, and the SALGA games model of matches that were starting from ward to provincial level was assisting provinces to develop local leagues. Basketball SA was facilitating a stronger partnership in that regard.

Compliance was also a major focus, as the organisation had sent compliance documentation to provinces and districts.

Most of the players in the BNL actually came from rural areas, but had obviously migrated to inner city schools. An example was a Durban high school, which was fetching players from Esikhawini, kwaDukuza and Ladysmith. A similar approach was being applied in giving access to the disabled.

Mr Omphemetse Mabula, National Executive Committee (NEC), Basketball SA, said that in terms of growing the sport, and as part of the National General Council (NGC) directive for each member of the NEC to focus on particular districts and a province, the work was ongoing. What was left was for the organisation to quantify the progress.

Mr Victor Bergman, NEC member, Basketball SA, said that in the 2013 national basketball league schools’ championship in Bloemfontein, the organisation had had intellectually impaired learners participating in the tournament as part of increasing access to basketball.

Mr Tsepo Nyewe, Acting Secretary General: Basketball SA, said that most of the organisation’s challenges with making the sport accessible at schools were at non-fee paying schools. The organisation would be announcing a partnership project with the NBA this year, to be piloted in three provinces. It would focus mainly on those schools to give them access to the sport. It was also exploring converting some of the netball infrastructure in disadvantaged communities of the country. There had been engagements with a possible donor willing to assist the organisation with mini-basketball development in township schools.

The organisation had trained coaches in Malelane, Mpumalanga and Upington, Northern Cape. Basketball SA had also hosted a successful women’s league in Mpumalanga, where rural towns like White River and Breyten had participated. The provincial government had assisted by providing transport for the teams to travel to the games. The organisation was seeking to cultivate more partnerships with provinces and municipalities in terms of access to facilities for basketball.

Mr Abrahams said that it was important to note that the new executive was only in its second year of establishing an organisation that had literally been dead. It was unheard of, in his opinion, for an organisation to have had so much activity in that amount of time with funding only from the state and some small amounts from broadcasting rights.

The biggest challenge that Basketball SA faced was that sponsors could never put their money in a business that constantly received bad press coverage. As such, the organisation had learnt to ignore unsubstantiated negative media cover, though it did immense damage to its image. It was appealing therefore, for the Committee to assist it in its endeavours to partner with local government.

Seeing that there were Members who participated in the sport and were offering to lobby, the organisation used the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) facilities, the O R Tambo Hall in Khayelitsha, one facility in Gugulethu, and another in Belhar, all within the Western Cape. However, all those were municipal facilities.

The organisation had a partnership with SRSA in regard to access to kits, and the Committee could certainly indicate to Basketball SA where the needs were.

Regarding wheelchair basketball, a barrier of entry to the sport was that the wheelchairs were very expensive, but the organisation could certainly provide details of the officials administering that sector of the sport.

Where club development was concerned in communities, individuals were currently forming clubs, but Basketball SA had incentivised provinces to start at least six women’s and youth clubs.

The increase in operational costs was due firstly to the repayment of the R5.5 million debt the new executive had inherited, and a substantial amount had already been repaid. The increase had also originated from having no programmes at all, to then having programmes.

All the officials implicated in accumulating the debt had been suspended, and could not partake in basketball anymore. Regarding the worst audit opinion for a federation, the organisation had had a choice -- either to pursue those officials legally, and further damage the image of the game, or to go on with the work. It had chosen to go on with the work.

Regarding sponsorships, there was a little income from broadcasting, and a federation grant from SRSA. In the financial year under review, statements would be available only in October at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). SRSA had also allocated R10 million for very specific programmes. The NLC demand for repayment of its grants had originated from the fact that Basketball SA had not submitted audited reports for three years. When the new executive had constructed and submitted the outstanding reports, the NLC had then revised its decision and decided that it would fund the organisation again through the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).

Mr Abrahams differed with Mr Bergman’s sentiments, as he believed that basketball had indeed taken off in the country, but unfortunately it was not receiving as much exposure as it deserved from the media. He then proceeded to exhibit to the Committee the contrast in the negative, compared to the positive, media exposure of the sport in the country. He understood and accepted Mr Bergman’s contextualisation of corruption in the sport, as long as it was not a Committee stance.

Regarding Mr Bergman’s difficulty with Basketball SA’s vision, it had been crafted democratically through the organisation’s structures. However, the organisation could possibly look outside of the vision as to how it could promote basketball in schools and communities.

In terms of interventions to enable the organisation to deal with its financial challenges, it begged but did not borrow. Therefore it currently would only drive programmes it knew were funded.

He agreed there was potential for Mr Abrahams to be conflicted by his dual roles in the BNL and the mother body of basketball. However, the role was for the mother body to have a presence in the BNL, as Mr Abrahams was not involved in the operational activities of the league.

The process of getting women into all the structures of the organisation was very slow, but there were female coaches and one female executive who had started a woman’s league.

Basketball SA was proudly poor, but corruption free.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would allow the new executive the opportunity to get on with its work. The Committee would interrogate Basketball SA’s work in the provinces during its oversight visits. It was however, unsatisfactory to find that those that had bankrupted the sport had been let off so easily. The Committee would possibly take that matter up with SASCOC or SRSA.

Mr Malatsi noted that gender equality had the unintended result of being reduced to representivity and numbers, without really touching on real equality. More meaningful would be an outcome-based programme in bridging the gap between representivity in the field of play, and senior administration. For example, what initiatives were there to make the women’s BNL as prolific and high stakes as the actual BNL?

How was Basketball SA using its value proposition; post-bankruptcy interventions to make the sport as lucrative as it was across the globe; and even offering career prospects for those participating in the sport?
All of that would also speak to how the organisation would renegotiate its broadcast rights agreements, once it had a concrete product to offer broadcasters.

He asked how Basketball SA was capitalising on the recent game between the NBA all-stars and the NBA all-Africa stars, as such events attracted capacity crowds and offered opportunities to reposition the sport in generating more interest and attracting the much needed potential partnerships. How involved had the organisation been in developing that event? How much income had it made from the event, or how much cost had it incurred as a result?

Could the organisation also provide clarity on the operational structure between itself and the BNL, and the percentage control between it and the BNL?

What was the final resolution regarding the impasse between the organisation and some of its senior players regarding events before and after the four nations tournament?

Mr Moteka said that the migration of youth from rural areas to urban areas was exactly what the Committee did not want, because that meant children of those who could afford were getting the benefits at the expense of rural communities. The Committee wanted talent to remain where it had been found, and the resources being brought to those communities. Moreover when the Committee referred to rural areas, it meant those deep communities, where access to resources was generally difficult.

Mr Mmusi reiterated Mr Moteka’s sentiments, noting that the Committee’s stance was directed to all federations and SRSA itself. It was shameful that the Committee had not been aware of the situation with the Under-16 national team in Mali.

Ms Manana asked for clarity on the high amounts spent on accommodation, travel and salaries in the 2013/14 annual report financial statements. Additionally, what were differences between the Sedgars sports shops mentioned in the report?

Mr Ralegoma said that though the emphasis was on rural development in the Committee’s stance, it did not mean that the children there should be ignored while waiting for sports infrastructure to be delivered there. The Ministerial bursary was aimed exactly at providing access for athletes anywhere to be taken to sport focus schools.

Mr Moteka replied that he had not been implying that migration should not take place, but maintained that there needed to be a permanent solution which was better than migrating the youth from rural to urban areas.

Mr Abrahams said that the budgeted salaries mentioned in the report amounted to only R87 000, to be split between two staff members, which he did not feel could be regarded as high. The other costs -- travel, accommodation, meals and kits -- were for programmes of the organisation for the development of the game. All of the programme expenses were for tournament costs.

The Sedgars expenses were part of the historical debt that the new executive had inherited from the previous leadership of the organisation, which made up the R5.5 million.

The organisation was very aware of the equality issue, so when it applied for funding, there was a separation of genders.

Basketball SA had started a women’s programme, where women’s teams from the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo would be playing curtain raisers to the BNL main games, starting in the week of 24 August. It was hoped that that would lead to a women’s league as well.

In 2016, basketball would also start its own basketball Varsity Cup championship, similar to rugby, cricket and soccer.

The BNL was not professional in the sense of athletes having sports careers, but rather it was run as a business concern. Over and above that, it afforded a stipend for students or athletes that had jobs apart from the game.

The organisation was capitalising on the momentum of the NBA match behind the scenes, as it had a partnership with NBA-Africa, which would be introducing NBA junior leagues. It had also held a coaching clinic that had taken place at Wembley, Johannesburg, on the back of that event. 20 girls had also benefited from the hosting of that match in the Basketball Without Borders initiative.

Basketball SA was the mother body and the BNL was an associate, and the tensions which could develop had been taken care of; in the sense that policies were in place to regulate foreign player contracts and discipline processes, where the mother body was the appeals board.

The alleged impasse with senior players before the four nations was simply a policy decision within basketball, which members of the body had adopted. Mr Abrahams said that no one in basketball was excluded in basketball. No one player had a permanent position in a national team; there was always a selection criterion for national colours.

He said that part of the restructuring was that there would no longer be a free-for-all, and possibly that was where the challenges had been for people in the game.

Mr Malatsi requested further clarity, as there seemed to have been no consensus on the medical indemnity in terms of contracting the players before the tournament, such that the camp had had to be dissolved.
What was the organisation’s policy on health insurance for players of the national team during and after tournaments?

Mr Abrahams said that Basketball SA always took out medical insurance for international tournaments for players as a rule, without listing it in the contract. There was also a stipend policy adopted by provinces and the league, for officials and players. Individuals were then paid stipends according to that document. For whatever reason, when players had come into camp there had been some that had refused to sign a standard indemnity form. After the President had been informed, he had gone to camp to address the issue.
He had simply made a policy decision that anyone who did not want to sign could not be part of the camp. The camp was then dissolved for the persons who did not sign. Those who had complained through social media and to particular political parties had actually absented themselves from the camp without notification or permission to do so.

The President said that should he be forced to take a similar policy decision again he would do so unconditionally, because discipline and accountability had to be instilled in the sport. As far as the leadership was concerned, there were no unresolved issues.

The Chairperson thanked Basketball SA for availing themselves for a briefing with the Committee.

Consideration and adoption of Committee minutes

The Committee adopted the minutes of 11 August 2015 without any amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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