Athletics South Africa strategy: briefing

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


19 May 2006

Chairperson: Mr B Komphela (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Athletics South Africa presentation

Athletics South Africa met with the Committee to provide information on transformation and development initiatives within athletics. Key challenges were outlined and its main programmes explained. Commercial and political challenges were explained. Particular attention was focused on problems with transformation in road running. Meaningful corporate sponsorships were needed to drive transformation. Youth development was a key component of the transformation strategy.

Members asked questions on subjects such as the lack of black athletes at international events, the representivity of ASA, assistance provided to rural communities to participate in events, the standard of provincial trainers as opposed to national coaches, the need for corporate sponsorships to drive development, the need for change within road running, the origins of financial support to ASA, the role of local government in facilitating positive change and ASA needing to have input on the building of new stadiums

Legislation and hearings
The Chairperson informed members that three Bills had to be processed in the near future: the Sports and Recreation Amendment Bill, South African Institute for Drug Free Amendment Bill and the Anti-doping Convention. Public hearings around these Bills would be arranged in due course. ASA would be invited to the Budget hearings on the 31 May.

Athletics South Africa presentation
Mr L Chuene (ASA President) explained that the mandate of the organisation focused on transformation and development. A strategy had been developed to meet objectives.

Ms L Ferns (General Manager) outlined core challenges and provided a history of recent developments. ASA was involved in training athletes for international events. Data was available on 200 000 road running athletes. Track and field remained the flagship code for ASA. Commercial and political challenges were outlined. Road running had to undergo significant transformation at the club level.

Mr M Malehopo (Development Manager) explained key developmental challenges and proposed that the Committee actively assist in generating meaningful corporate sponsorships to drive transformation. Certain development projects were outlined such as preparation for the Olympic Games. Incentives had been improved to encourage better performances from top athletes. A Chief Coach was needed to manage development. Increased competitions would attract the youth to the sport. A Nedbank sponsorship had been secured for the shorter distance series. A medical insurance scheme was provided for the athletes. School athletics would be targeted to produce future high achievers. Sound athletics facilities had to be created to promote increased participation. Middle distance and field events were identified as special projects for development.

Mr E Saloojee (ANC) complimented ASA for an honest portrayal of the current scenario in athletics. The predominance of white athletes at international events created the impression that black athletes were not participating or displaying any ability in athletics. He asked whether ASA represented athletics in South Africa as a whole and whether the organisation lacked the ability to transform the sport. Clarity was sought on the selection process for international teams.

Mr S Masango (DA) noted that coverage of athletics by the public broadcaster had to improve. He asked whether athletes should be going from door to door raising money to compete in events and whether ASA was aware of this. Transport should be provided to rural communities to enable participation in official events. He asked whether specific events had been identified as part of the four-year targets. Provincial coaches tended to be under-qualified in comparison to the national coaches. Detail was requested on the number of scholarships issued.

Mr L Reid (ANC) reminded Members of the dominance of Afrikaner capital in the past in terms of athletics sponsorships. Resources were made available in accordance with a nationalistic strategy at the time. The challenge now was to pressurise companies to support the development of athletics in the present context.

Mr B Dhlamini (IFP) proposed that ASA present its input to the upcoming public hearings on the Sports Amendment Bill. Legislation was needed to remove the current situation where parallel financial support systems were in place. Road running clubs had to be encouraged to channel resources into ASA as the recognised development structure.

Mr Chuene stated that accredited national coaches had to have extensive training experience on the ground. International team selections were governed by stipulated criteria that tended to favour privileged athletes. Clubs tended to receive financial support from companies and a concerted effort was required to change this scenario. All provinces should be involved in national events and teams should reflect the national demographics.

Mr Malehopo declared that transport from rural areas was provided and resources were made available at the grassroots level to ensure participation in events.

Ms Ferns noted that clubs provided little if any assistance to registered athletes. For example, no support was forthcoming for travel to road races. Most clubs were administered by whites with no succession plan in place.

Mr Malehopo asserted that local government should intervene in clubs within their respective provinces to facilitate transformation. ASA would devise a scholarship programme to provide financial support to young athletes. Transformation in athletics should be guided by the Constitution. Changes at the ground level were necessary to bring about changes at the national level.

Ms Ferns declared that the particular circumstances of people raising money on behalf of ASA would have to be considered. ASA could assist individuals with sponsorships in justifiable situations.

Mr Saloojee concurred that legislation was required to transform the sponsorship system to enable funds to be channelled towards development needs.

Mr Chuene agreed that the present funding system hindered transformation and meaningful changes were needed. Large numbers of clubs tended to outvote proposals to transform.

The Chairperson stated that negotiations were required to alter the status quo in favour of transformation. ASA received R2 million per annum from the Department and R8 million from the National Lottery.

Mr Saloojee asserted that more Lottery funds were needed to drive development in sport.

The Chairperson recommended that a specific grant for sports facilities be returned to at the Local Government level to facilitate progress. He asked whether road running federations existed outside ASA that organised big races and were not controlled by the national body.

Mr Chuene stated that road running had previously been controlled by English-speaking citizens whereas cross-country and track and field had been dominated by Afrikaners. Road running had tended to isolate itself from the unity process and a parallel structure had remained. The intention was to place road running under one governing body. The media tended to support the existing arrangement and criticise proposed changes. Funds raised by major events should be channelled into development.

Ms Ferns stated that the Two Oceans raised approximately R80 000 that went to the club in question instead of being available for development initiatives.

The Chairperson noted that no consultation was taking place with ASA regarding the building of new stadiums for the Soccer World Cup. An opportunity was being missed to put in place sound infrastructure to promote athletics.

The meeting was adjourned.


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