Tennis SA briefing; Committee Reports

Sports, Arts and Culture

13 June 2017
Chairperson: Ms B Dlulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee received a briefing from Tennis South Africa (TSA) on its governance, financials, transformation plan, development plan and implementation, and related matters.

The core aim of TSA was transformation, transparency, and performance. It faced challenges with regard to the lack of female participation in the sport, and the federation was looking at ways of addressing the challenge by incorporating former tennis players of all race groups in the women’s tennis task force that had the objective of encouraging greater female participation.

Tennis was identified as a sport that had a huge potential for growth in South Africa, with benefits for communities and the country. The majority of tennis players in South Africa were young black people. There was a equal representation of women and men in tennis. Most athletes began playing the sport either between the ages of six and 11, or between 12 and 15. Athletes were largely influenced to take up the sport by their parents and schools.

Transformation was evident at TSA’s board level, which included six black people, nine white people, and one person with a disability.

The Committee was told that TSA had generated more income over the years through funding from federations by virtue of their hosting competitions, but during the 2014/15 financial year it had run at a deficit. It had been able to continue with a number of their programmes due to funding by the National Lottery board. In the 2017 financial year, four new commercial partners had joined as sponsors -- Kia, Lotto, Vodacom and Axnosis.

TSA had set clear goals to achieve by 2024. These were to be one of the top five most popular sports in SA, to have 50 000 paying members, to increase high performance by having at least three players in each of the top 200 singles rankings, and four boys and four girls in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) top 100 rankings, as well as maintaining sustainable cash reserves of at least R15 million at 2017 rand value.

The vision of TSA was to see someone playing tennis somewhere, every day. This could be achieved through innovation, collaboration, and transparency. Long term goals to achieve by 2024 were to increase interest, increase participation, improve on performance and maintain a sustainable business model.

Members expressed concern that tennis facilities were expensive to build and maintain, and this posed a major barrier to entry into the sport. South Africa needed local tennis heroes, like the Williams sisters, for young people to look up to. They asked how much of the ITF’s grant was used for development in disadvantaged areas, and said there was a need for local government to spend a portion of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) on sports facilities, like tennis courts, and not to divert these funds to other projects.

Meeting report

Mr Gavin Crookes, President, Tennis South Africa (TSA) said that the core aim of TSA was transformation, transparency, and performance. There was a concern for women’s tennis in South Africa, and TSA was looking at ways to address and solve the challenge by incorporating a number of former tennis players of all race groups in a women’s tennis task force which aimed to encourage greater female participation in tennis. There were challenges, and TSA continued engaging with the Department of Education (DoE) and Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) on incorporating tennis into school sports.

Mr Richard Glover, CEO, TSA said that tennis was a sport that had a huge potential for growth in South Africa, with benefits for communities and the country. The majority of fans followed the sport, but did not, or were unable, to attend games. Most of the people who participated in the game were university students and young people generally. At the third level were the high performance players – those athletes who performed in competitions,

Mr Riad Davids, Vice-President, TSA said that SA did not have any international events that brought money into the country and they were therefore not able to fund the sport independently. A huge problem in SA was that there was not enough awareness about tennis, even though the sport was played at school, club and international level. There was a need to raise awareness.  Club tennis was under financial pressure. Metros were often not able to fund clubs. There was a need to improve infrastructure. TSA was struggling to provide high calibre female players.

Mr Glover said that tennis fans in South Africa were evenly spread between men and women. Demographically, most fans were young black women, and this could have been as a result of the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.

44% of active tennis players were under the age of 24, and 17% were under the age of 15. Tennis players tended to start playing the sport between the ages of six and eleven, and then again between 12 and 15. Most athletes were influenced to play the sport by their schools and parents. Tennis in SA had a huge potential for growth if the federation put the right plans in place.

Mr Davids said that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) formed part of the governance structure of TSA. Mr Crookes and Mr Davids both served on the ITF body, and this helped influence tennis in South Africa. Tennis was one of the biggest played sports in Africa, but the sport lacked awareness and people did not know about that fact. The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) also formed part of the governance structure. Tennis was active in all the provinces of South Africa. A board of directors made up the executive body of TSA. Various sub-committees had been formed which dealt with transformation, remuneration, high performance, innovation, risk and ethics, audit, etc. University tennis and schools tennis also formed part of the board of TSA. On the board of directors, there were six black people, nine white people, and one white disabled woman.

Mr Crookes said TSA had generated more income over the years through funding from federations, by virtue of their hosting competitions. During the 2014/15 financial year, TSA had run at a deficit with their cash flow, but they had been able to continue with a number of their programmes due to funding from the National Lottery board.  During 2016/17, the aim of TSA was to spend as much as they could get in. Increased sponsorship would allow TSA to do a lot more. TSA had a good relationship with SRSA, and the Director-General had assured them of SRSA’s continued support for TSA due to their good performance and financials.

Mr Davids said that the board of TSA was not remunerated, and was one of the very few sports bodies that was not remunerated.

Mr Glover said that four commercial partners had joined as sponsors at the start of 2017. These were Kia, Lotto, Vodacom and Axnosis.

Mr Anthony Loubser, Board Member, TSA, said that transformation was a strategic imperative for TSA. The more people they could get into the sport, the more they could increase their global competitiveness and participation.

Weaknesses identified were that there was a lack of transformation at the sub-committee level, and general participation demographics were below transformation target levels. There was also a critical need to make the sport more accessible, especially at the school level. Principles of the transformation strategy were multi-dimensional and focused on changing the demographic profiles on and off the court.

Key transformation focus areas were infrastructure and participation opportunities, human resources and skills development, the demographic profile, performance, contribution to government priorities, and good governance.

The provision of coaching, and the level of coaching, was a crucial requirement for the success of the development programmes. Off the court, the strategy was to use marketing, community involvement, transformation of course content, removing barriers to entry for officials, and increasing access to equipment and infrastructure. On the court, the strategy was to involve grassroots levels, entry levels (age 5-9), ranking tournaments, intermediate levels, improve performance and produce elite players.

Ms Mpho Makhoba, Development Manager, TSA said there had been a 50/50 representation of boys and girls in the recent junior competitions, and this included coaches. 96% of wheelchair tennis players in SA were black. 63% of tennis officials were also black, and 25% were female officials.

At the schools indaba, TSA had identified some key outputs for tennis. These had included building stakeholder relationships with local governments, SRSA, and the Department of Basic Education, and also increasing participation and creating a hype around tennis at schools by forming a national school ranking system, promoting and pushing red ball tennis, introducing beach tennis, experimenting with a central host venue for school league matches, as well as school and club competitions, especially in rural areas.

Ms Zaida Beukes, Board Member, TSA said that the Women’s Task Force had made recommendations on how to grow and improve female participation in tennis. The focus areas were getting more girls playing tennis at the school level, keeping the girls playing the sport after they had left school, producing high performance female players, and retaining them.

At the recent 2017 French Open, a “grand slam” event, Kevin Anderson had reached the last 16 in the men’s singles. Raven Klaasen was seeded eighth in the doubles, and fourth in the mixed doubles. Bertus Kruger had reached the last 32 of the boy’s singles. TSA had their own young talents playing the sport, namely Lloyd Harris (20), Zoe Kruger (15), and the Montsi brothers, Sipho and Kholo.

In 2017, there had so far been a 21% increase in participation. Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WT SA) had players ranked in the top 15 in the world, and the second most players on the world rankings. South Africa had been one of only six countries that had participated in all three divisions at the 2016 Paralympics, and was thus considered as one of the global leaders in tennis development.

TSA had set clear goals to achieve by 2024. These were to be one of the top five most popular sports in SA, to have 50 000 paying members, to increase high performance by having at least three players in each of the top 200 singles rankings, and four boys and four girls in the ITF top 100 rankings, as well as maintaining sustainable cash reserves of at least R15 million at 2017 rand value.

Mr Glover said that the vision for TSA was to see someone playing tennis somewhere every day. This could be achieved through innovation, collaboration, and transparency. Long term goals to achieve by 2024 were to increase interest, increase participation, improve on performance and maintain a sustainable business model.

Discussion

Mr D Bergman (DA) said that tennis had a huge barrier to entry because a court was needed in order to play, and facilities were expensive to build and maintain. The introduction of red ball tennis and beach tennis was good, because it eliminated the need for a court. TSA needed to promote South African tennis heroes in order to inspire the youth and give the people someone local to look up to. There needed to be a mini version of tennis, where the rules were not the same as the original game, but the sport could be played and draw interest and large crowds.

Mr T Mhlongo (DA) asked how much of the ITF grant was used for the development of tennis in disadvantaged communities. How many TSA districts were there in Gauteng?  Where were the Wheelchair Tennis offices in Gauteng situated? What had caused the deficit during the 2014/15 financial year? What was the cost of building tennis infrastructure, and how much did the equipment cost?

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) asked what the strategy was to reach rural areas and promote tennis on a grander scale. What was TSA’s relationship with provincial departments, other than the Western Cape?

Mr S Mmusi (ANC) asked what hampered South Africa from producing its own Serena and Venus Williams. He said that only one board member was disabled, while during the presentation TSA had gone to great lengths talking about supporting transformation. Why was there only one disabled board member?.

Ms D Manana (ANC) said that to her understanding every board member was remunerated per meeting, but during the presentation TSA had indicated that the board did not get remunerated. Their expenses were large, so she wanted clarity on how board members were compensated.

Mr S Ralegoma (ANC) said that the Committee would help to assist TSA and other federations to receive a greater portion of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG). He thanked TSA for aligning its targets with those of SRSA, as the Committee was linked to that pathway.

The Chairperson said that she felt pity for TSA as a small federation, with the problems they were encountering at the schools. The MIG was not being put to the correct use by the municipalities, and this needed to be looked at. TSA needed to have an advisory session with local sports desks and relay their need for facilities to be refurbished, maintained and utilised by tennis players.

TSA’s response

Mr Glover said that there were four pillars to raising awareness:

  • Bringing more international tennis competition to SA;
  • Introducing new formats to tennis, such as beach tennis and red ball tennis;
  • Community engagement with exciting competitions, or “razzmatazz”;
  • Participation in local club championships.

A tennis court cost roughly R300 000 - R400 000.

Mr Crookes said red ball tennis was advantageous in that in that it did not require the use of a tennis court or rackets. TSA was looking at changing the formats of tennis to draw in more people.

Expenses over the last couple of years had been high because TSA had a fixed organisation that was “cut to the bone,” and they had had to draw on reserves and were delivering to the best of their abilities on what they could afford.

There were only three board members in the past who had been remunerated, and it was not due to governance related issues, but rather had to do with the operational functioning of the organisation. Travel costs also added to the expenses of TSA, due to not all board members living in the same town or province. In some cases where TSA may not have been formally invited to an event with all expenses paid, the board would then pay for all the expenses involved.

Mr Glover said that WT SA was an affiliate member of TSA, and they had their own governance structure. As part of their relationship, a representative from WT SA had to serve on the board of TSA, and the chairperson of WT SA ended up serving on the board of TSA.

Mr Loubser said that resource constraints forced TSA to focus on forming hubs in areas where there was increased interest in the sport. Gauteng and Western Cape were those strategic locations because of the access they provided for expansion into rural areas and neighboring provinces. The Eastern Cape was identified as a potential hub.

Ms Makhoba said that research had been done on facilities that were dilapidated. A database of all the tennis courts that were dilapidated and needing attention, had been established.

Ms Makhoba said that capacity building was conducted at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto so that teachers could give assistance to children living in the area, and the township at large.

The Chairperson was pleased that greater attention was focused on rural areas. She proposed that at TSA’s next meeting with the Committee, they present a plan that informs them how many schools they would target to visit and improve facilities, as well as the number of schools they had assisted.

Mr Mhlongo asked if the ITF grant supported community development, and also wanted to know where the Gauteng office was situated.

Mr Crookes responded that within the grant structure, $6 000 USD was allocated for community development. A portion of the grant was used at the Arthur Ashe facility.

The Gauteng offices were located in Centurion, Pretoria.

The Chairperson thanked the delegation for briefing the Committee.

Committee business

The Chairperson said the Committee’s report on its oversight visit to North West province was long overdue for adoption. Mr Ralegoma proposed adoption of the report, and Mr Mhlongo seconded. The report was adopted.

The Committee’s minutes of 28 March 2017 were proposed for adoption by Mr Mhlongo. Ms Manana seconded. The minutes were adopted.

The Committee’s minutes of 9 May 2017 were proposed for adoption, with minor corrections, by Ms Abrahams. Ms B Dlomo (ANC) seconded. The minutes were adopted.

Ms Abrahams suggested the minutes of 16 May 2017 be set aside because they were not compiled in the normal format. Ms Manana seconded the suggestion, and the minutes were set aside.

In the minutes of 23 May 2017, Mr Mhlongo pointed out there had been an omission of the Committee’s request for the SA Football Association’s (SAFA’s) financials. Mr Ralegoma proposed the adoption of the minutes. Ms Manana seconded. The minutes were adopted

The Minutes of 30 May 2017 were not compiled properly and the Chairperson proposed that they not be adopted.

The Committee agreed.

The meeting was adjourned.

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