The Current State of Sports in South Africa

Updated: May 29, 2020

Some say it’s the end of the world as we know it. Covid-19 has without a doubt altered our world on all levels. No industry or sector has been spared from its impact and devastation. The world of sports has also been a pandemic casualty, as experienced and witnessed. Sports have been uniting people the globe over for generations and the lack of any live action has become the new reality. Sports fanatics have had to contend with the rebroadcast of previous events of their favourite sporting codes. This is coupled with the cancellation of the most popular sporting tournaments, including the Tokyo Olympics, which was planned for July – August 2020.

All the stakeholders involved with the various sporting codes have had to amend their plans, preparations and approaches on how to cope under the current circumstances. More so, the athletes are unable to actively engage with their sport on the various sporting fields. The reality is it is now business “unusual” as some sports take to the virtual stage.

Josia Thugwane, Elana Meyer, Penny Heyns, Hezekiel Sepeng, Roland Schoeman, Deratu Tulu, Ryk Neethling, Akani Simbini, Wayde Van Niekerk, Kevin Anderson, Hestrie Storbeck-Cloete just to name a few. These are all athletes who have represented South Africa on the international stage and achieved top honours in their respective sporting codes. Some of these names are not familiar to the youth of today, because they were not around when Josia Thugwane won the first gold medal by a black South African since its readmission back into the global sporting community.

Since that historic day, the country had experienced varying levels of success on the sporting field. South Africa won the rugby world cup three times, played in two soccer world cup tournaments, performed exceptionally well with their ladies soccer team, hockey and more recently the ladies netball team. There have also been noticeable performances by the country’s junior teams at international tournaments and events. It is commendable for such a young democracy, to have accomplished all these accolades.

There was also the debate regarding the relevance, history and the retention of the Springbok brand. Nelson Mandela in his wisdom acknowledged the past legacy of the Springbok brand, but had the insight to keep the brand as a vehicle to unify, mobilise and deliver on social cohesion possibilities. Rugby is the only sport in the country, which operates under this brand. The rest of the national teams are all representing the nation under the Proteas brand.

In the hey-day of sports sponsorships it was the battle of the big budgets. The mobile network operators dominated all available commercial sporting opportunities with their brands visible on most platforms. Due to consolidation of budgets, the economic climate challenges and focus by these and other players, we saw a less aggressive approach and support for sports in recent years.

The Sports Trust is celebrating 25 Years of “Enhancing Education through Sport”, by means of promotion, access, participation, development and advancement of sports in the country, and supports previously disadvantaged schools and communities, with the assistance of their Trustees and Corporate donors.

Since its inception in 1994; as a result of a call by Madiba to incorporate sports to unite the rainbow nation, as the country was branded, with the international community at the time. The formation of The Trust was a partnership between government and the private sector to ensure improved, better and enhanced access, participation and representation of all South Africans in sports, more specifically black people who have been marginalised. The Trust is grateful for these founding members and government who have made it possible for them to provide sporting infrastructure, sporting kits and youth development programmes to the South African communities in need.

Below is a table, which outlines the number of initiatives, projects and interventions, The Sports Trust has undertaken the past the 25 years. The Trust is pleased to report that these investments were considered with long term sustainable impact and change as integral to its decision making. Some of its observations have been the direct correlation between sports as an extra curricula activity at schools and how it has resulted in improved academic achievements. Sporting activities and its availability contributes to the holistic development of young people. Furthermore it installs various values such as discipline, commitment, focus, team dynamics, respect and responsible behaviour.

There are 86 multi-sports courts installed nationally in the country to date.

The Sports Trust as a non-profit organisation and is totally dependent on its partners for its survival and mandate delivery. There have been noticeable smaller to no investment in grassroots development of sports in the past decade, which has resulted in reduced programme rolled outs and development being overlooked. It is also the case with the more popular and commercial sporting properties, which has also experienced a slumped in numbers as well. The results by BMI are showing that Standard Banks re-entering into cricket sponsorship and MTN supports for the Boks have revitalised the rights holders’ optimism for renewed interest.

Not so much the case for The Trust, which had previously installed on average of 10 multi-sports-courts per year in underdeveloped areas; and which are able to accommodate 5-different sporting codes per court, namely 5 a side soccer, netball, basketball and tennis and is also disabled friendly. In 2019 only 3 courts were installed, which is impacting its mandate to promote, advance, develop and increase the investment in grassroots sports across the footprint of the country.

A total of 86 sports courts have been installed to date, May 2020 in all 9 provinces in South Africa.

Principal Makgoba of Makgefola Primary School

“The exposure to sport from primary-school level is essential to holistic learner development. ‘It helps learners to develop strong self-discipline, values and morals; to control their temper; to think about others and develop a sense of team spirit; to understand the importance of respecting rules and honouring responsibilities; and to appreciate that hard work is one of the main keys to success.’ Our wish is to produce competent, healthy learners with skills in our different sporting codes, which include netball, soccer, volleyball, cricket, scouts and indigenous games, and to create opportunities for learners. The fruits of this court will be revealed in the talent we produce.’ Having high-achieving role models that come from your community is the best way to inspire young people to achieve their potential. This gift of a multipurpose sports court has fallen on fertile soil and it will be used to the maximum and we thank The Sports Trust and Nedbank for their investment into our school.

We call on all corporates, donors and funders to partner with us to continue to bring hope, access, opportunities and sustainable development programmes, to the youth and our future leaders. This partnership of sport development will ensure that we don’t just celebrate the cream of the crop, but invest in programmes, which could benefit more people in schools, communities and rural areas that are under resourced areas of the country.

Beneficiaries of The Sports Trust Investments

The Sports Trust has furthermore realised with its investment that they are a (PBA) Public Business Administrator, and a PBO (Public Benefit Organisation) focussing in the areas of:

· promoting access and participation to disadvantaged communities in the context of sport facilities and activities;

· build and equip sport facilities for the benefit of the poor and needy by means of inter alia

· providing new facilities to complement existing facilities;

· upgrading and enhancing existing indoor and outdoor facilities for sport, recreation and/or training;

· providing sports equipment and kit;

· providing maintenance equipment for the upkeep of facilities;

To further articulate the importance of sports as a PBA we would like to demonstrate how sport is able to do the following when kids are physically active:

· They perform better academically – it improves their recall ability and focus

· They have better attendance – school and other activities

· Their behaviour improves – (reality is that 2 out of 3 kids are inactive) and

· Active kids perform better in life

Source: The Public Library of Science

We would like to emphasise the importance of corporate collaboration and incentives to ensure continued support and funding of grass root sport development. The incentives in the form a Tax deductible 18 (A) certificate for corporates to get involved with sports development, sponsorship, promotion, development and sustainability. Together we can have a healthier society where all stakeholders benefit from our investments and involvement.

We have now all taken front row seats as we witness how Covid-19 provided all sporting codes with a red card. But, it’s not all doom and gloom; with most countries easing up lockdown restrictions, Germany has recently announced the restart of the Bundesliga league. Soon other countries, such as South Africa will also follow this decision. Sport will once again be able to unify people in all corners of the globe. In the meantime Formula One has conceded that there might not be any races this year, while MotoGP and Indy Car racing will commence from end of June 2020.

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