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Lottery funding cut-backs ‘will strangle SA sport’

by ZwemZa on May 18th, 2017
Minister of Sport Thulas Nxesi. (Carl Fourie/Gallo Images)

Minister of Sport Thulas Nxesi. (Carl Fourie/Gallo Images)

Forget junk status. Cinderella sports will sink into pumpkin poverty if new purse-tightening rules by the National Lotteries Commission are imposed, the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) has warned.

Rowing, swimming, athletics and triathlon – which produced nine of the country’s 10 medals at the Rio Games last year – are among those at risk.

The Lotto has hit them with two hammer blows in its latest regulations.

One is a prohibition on organisations applying for further Lotto funding for a year after a successful bid.

The other is downgrading Sascoc, the umbrella body responsible for sending teams to multisport events, to the status of a national federation.

That means grants to Sascoc will be capped at R5-million for an effective two-year period – a massive drop from recent allocations that have topped R100-million over 12 months.

National federations would get R5-million every second year instead of every year.

Sascoc president Gideon Sam said he had already been in talks with the National Lotteries Commission and would talk to Sport Minister Thembelani “Thulas” Nxesi after his budget speech in parliament later this month.

“We agreed it would not be in the interests of South African sport, let alone Sascoc,” said Sam. “I am confident [we can change their minds], otherwise we don’t have sport.”

The lack of funding had already forced Sascoc to cut the size of the team for the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas in July, Sam said.

His CEO, Tubby Reddy, said Sascoc might be out of business within 12 months.

“We can keep our doors open until the end of the financial year, which is in March. We have some resources of our own .

“There’s no point in being open [without enough funding]. If you can’t deliver teams and prepare athletes, there’s no point.”

The biggest casualties would be Olympic and Paralympic athletes eligible for Sascoc’s Operation Excellence funding for high-performance sport, which totalled tens of millions of rands in the build-up to the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics.

Star swimmers Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh have been given more than R3-million in total since 2009.

The fund benefited sprinter Anaso Jobodwana, the 200m world championship bronze medallist in 2015, during his rehabilitation from two serious injuries, in 2014 and last year.

The programme is also the lifeblood of South Africa’s successful rowing squad, a consistent source of Olympic and world championship medals, which qualified five boats for the last Olympics.

“We are 70% reliant on Sascoc for everything,” said Roger Barrow, World Rowing’s coach of 2016.

Since Sascoc was formed in 2004, a merger between the National Olympic Committee of SA, the SA Commonwealth Games Association and the government-run SA Sports Commission, it has failed to attract meaningful sponsorships.

Reddy said Sascoc received little Lotto funding in the years preceding the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, at which South Africa won only one medal.

After being voted in as president soon afterwards, Sam helped unlock Lotto funding for Sascoc and national federations.

At London 2012, South Africa won six medals, with three golds – the nation’s best performance since readmission to the Olympics. At Rio 2016 the athletes achieved 10 gongs and the country’s best result since 1920.

“When I see what’s happening in athletics now, you can’t back off,” said Sam.

Track and field athletes won four medals in Rio, the most by South African athletics at a single Games.

Sascoc’s annual salary bill is more than R14-million, but Reddy said this was necessary. “If you don’t have the administration to run your affairs, you’re wasting your time.”

David Isaacson | Times Live

From → African News

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