SASCOC’S Sam on road ahead
With just over two months to go till the 2012 Olympic Games in London, SASCOC President Gideon Sam says the country’s sportsmen and women are in a stronger position to bring back medals than at the same stage before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Sam was speaking at the country’s Olympic governing body’s two-day President’s Council meeting at a Kempton Park Hotel this weeekend.
“I think as SASCOC we are doing OK… we don’t have too much but we’re OK. Certainly we’re on a better footing than before Beijing. This time around we can proudly stand up and say that we have tried our best.
“Now it is up to our athletes to bring back those medals while our National Federations tick the various boxes and ask ourselves if we have moved sport forward in the last period.”
Sam says that our sports codes need to be strategic. “I was watching our men’s hockey team qualify for the Games in Japan last weekend and I firmly think we need to be strategic. Maybe South Africa Hockey needs to sit down with us and work out whether it’s worth our while to put as many of the team into the Dutch Leagues etc .. my opinion is that they are not playing enough together. An example is that we had our baseball men representing South Africa at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 but I ask myself now: ‘Where’s baseball these days? We need to be sport specific .. and we can’t leave it all up to the federations.”
Sam also went on to once again harp on the fact that sponsorship funding is dwindling rapidly. “You all want money but it’s just not there. We’re not honest to ourselves in the sports industry. There are too many individuals just doing their own thing and if it carries on like that the sponsors are going to move away and that’s even from the big federations.
“As a sports movement we have to be able to put money on the table and resource our own efforts.”
“One good thing is that we’re still in the good books with the Olympic Solidarity movement, largely due to the hard work of our International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board Member, Dr Sam Ramsamy. There is lots of money there but obviously they want professional programmes so I say to the National Federations, check what is available.”
Sam also thanked Deputy Sports Minister Mr Gert Oosthuizen and Sports and Recreation South Africa. “SRSA have come to the party in a big way and are going out of their way to help the national federations.”
On the matter of funding, Sam also warned of over-reliance on LOTTO funding. “There was a time when we had R960-million available to us but we are now sitting on just R340-million.. that party is over – gone, goodbye. Don’t make a commitment to big events and expect to rely on LOTTO funding. I have warned the federations for the last three years and the federations are going to have be smart, very smart in their applications for funding.”
And Sam also suggested the way to go. “Of the available LOTTO funding, 50% is earmarked for rural upgrading so I’m urging: ‘follow the money and go to the rural areas if you want funding.’
Oosthuizen had earlier addressed the meeting on a number of topics and promised continued Government support for the sports movement. “We at SRSA have put our money where our mouth is. We studied previous Olympic Games reports by project managers and listed to our cash-strapped athletes.
“Government has re-prioritised funds to athletes who have qualified according to SASCOC criteria. “We have ring-fenced R1-million to the national women’s soccer side and a further R1-million to the women’s hockey side in order to inspire others to qualify.
“Then, over and above our normal sports grant, SRSA have allocated R26-million. I know that back in 2009 President Sam promised 12 medals in 2012 but I hope your energy is still left for 2016. I look forward to bolder statements. Our kids need new role models and sporting ambassadors, let no talent go unnoticed.”
Speaking of the 2012 School Sports Plan launch, Oosthuizen said a nationwide audit of schools is currently underway “to plan and resource schools so that we can unearth all available sports talent out there. At the moment we have 7000 schools registered and by the end of the year we intend that to be 10,000, then next year 20,000 and hopefully all 27,000 schools in the plan’s third year.”
Oosthuizen also commented on the controversial Bokkie Week which recently saw a child turned away from a hockey trials event in North West Province purely on the basis of her skin colour. “The Bokkie Week is despicable and unacceptable and is out like apartheid. The sports movement need to be seen as putting the right message across consistently … in the spirit of Ubuntu we must address and rescue our children from events like this.”
SA Hockey Association president Dave Carr also spoke out against the event: “The South African Hockey Association has taken a firm decision to condemn the actions taken by the organisers of ‘Bokkie week’. SA Hockey has at all times been an organisation that upholds the constitution of our country as the supreme law of our land and because of this we cannot begin to endorse any sentiment that wishes to exclude open participation in hockey.
“As the custodians of hockey in our country, as identified by SASCOC, the South African government and the International Hockey Federation, ‘Bokkie Week’ is not an event that is organised by anyone affiliated to us or any of our members. In light of this we will continue to distance ourselves from this event, the actions of its organisers and continue to openly condemn their actions.”
Also on Saturday a task team from SASCOC presented draft selection policy recommendations for the period 2013 to 2016 to the President’s Council.
Chaired by SASCOC General Manager (High Performance) Ms Ezera Tshabangu, and presented by Bowls South Africa president Debra Ferguson, the eight-strong team formulated the generic policy, which will allow debate between National Federations and SASCOC, and will apply to the following multi-coded sporting events: the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia; the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, the 2015 All Africa Games in Congo (Brazzaville) and the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The recommendation, now still in its infant stages, will be reworked over the next few months and is expected to be approved at the SASCOC annual meeting in August.
Said Ferguson: “The panel agreed that the 2009-2012 policy has by and large worked – by taking less people we seem to have won more medals but we have to have everyone on the same page when it comes to selection. We are here to create elite athletes and come back from events with medals… high-performance should be the ultimate goal when it comes to selection.”
The board also heard an address from the liquor industry’s Dr Vincent Maphai (South African Breweries) on the proposed alcohol marketing restriction – it’s impact and implications, especially for the sports movement.
“The liquor industry fully support government in their fight against alcohol abuse and we must pull together like our fight against HIV (Aids) and represent the liquor industry as a whole. The industry is genuinely concerned but we cannot drive it underground. Of the liquor industry’s sponsorship 79% goes on sports sponsorship. If these restrictions are imposed and we withdraw completely from sports and events marketing the knock-on effect on advertising, sports, events and music will lead to job losses and merely fuel the illicit industry. Alcohol prohibition is ineffective .. target the abusers .. don’t punish everyone. Drug abuse is on rise .. but I don’t see any adverts promoting marijuana?
“Our message is simple: target drunken driving, under-age drinking and foetal alcohol syndrome. We need to create diversion and in my opinion the best form of diversion is the use of sport and sports ambassadors against alcohol abuse!”
Former SA Football Association chief and legal wizard, Mr Raymond Hack also addressed the meeting on the question of viable structures going forward and warned of the wasting of valuable funds through legal recourse.
“Any sports federation who has a problem and then takes it to court, who do they go to court against? SASCOC. And although nine times out of 10 SASCOC wins, I can’t begin to tell you the amount of money that has been wasted – it could have made a huge difference in the development of sport. And what often happens is that most times the federation’s membership don’t even know about the federation going to court… all the membership want is facilities and to be able to play their chosen sport.
“And in terms of attracting funding, the name of your sport must be clean… if people are speaking badly about you no commercial body will speak to you, you won’t get any support, no matter how small or big you are.”