Gradual transformation in SA sport

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Government has realised the 2017/18 Eminent Persons Group (EPG) Report on Transformation in Sport, which shows that transformation is taking place in differing sporting codes in South Africa.

The report, which was handed over to Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa on Tuesday, revealed that 13 of the 19 federations audited were at the top end of the scoreboard, scoring between 50% and 78%.

These were cricket, rugby, netball, gymnastics, rowing, softball, swimming, bowls, hockey, jukskei, tennis, table tennis and football.

The remaining six federations were at the bottom end and had scored between 10% and 30% in the following order: volleyball, athletics, baseball, amateur boxing, chess and basketball.

Among the big five federations, Athletics South Africa (ASA) suffered the indignity of being the only member to miss its transformation targets.

“I am disappointed that athletics has not met its scorecard target. I will in due course have a meeting with ASA to detail how they plan to address this matter,” Xasa told a media briefing in Pretoria.

The EPG was appointed to help the Minister monitor and evaluate the current transformation process in sport, as outlined in the National Sport and Recreation Plan (NSRP). It looks at transformation targets set by 19 sporting federations.

The report does not deal only with players on the field, but roles throughout the sporting federations. 

According to the report, only four federations - football, table tennis, netball and baseball - achieved the male underage national representative team predetermined Charter generic Black target of 60%.

And only four federations - football, table tennis, volleyball and amateur boxing - achieved the generic Black target for female underage national representative entities.

From a transformation perspective, these figures signal significant pipeline challenges (male and female) for many of the federations audited - a formidable strategic weakness in the sport system.

However, the light at the end of the transformation tunnel for some federations in the bottom half of the table may be dimming.

The report found that this is mainly due to what appears to be a slow or ineffective change in the demographic profile, particularly in the senior and underage male and female representative teams; high-performance groups; coach; referees/umpire; medical/scientific, and leadership structures.

"An area of concern is coaches and referees within federations. That remains unchanged. We need to work the system right from grassroots through to elite levels,” Xasa said before calling for more to be done to make sure equity is achieved.

Furthermore, the report found that the historic human resource base of several federations are in the process of changing because of the impact of an ageing White population and the decline in participation numbers, said EPG's Dr Willie Basson.

This is based on scales developed by the United Nations, which state that the Black African population in South Africa is classified as a young population, the Coloured and Indian populations as mature, and the White population as ageing.

Basson said the total under the 18-year-old component of the population - about 20 million (male plus female) - is a reservoir of future human capital and is therefore important from a planning perspective.

The U18 Black male African group - about 9 million - is projected to increase by 20% over the next 20 years; however, there will be a decrease in the Indian (8%), Coloured (19%) and White (31%) groups.

“The challenge facing existing predominantly White sport structures, therefore, is the need to balance the rate of decrease in the White population and subsequent decline in sport participant numbers, with an increase in the number of U18 Black Africans,” Basson said.

He said from a sustainability perspective, codes with a predominantly White demographic profile, such as tennis, swimming, rowing and jukskei, need to quantify and understand the impact of demographic change on their sport and make it an integral part of the planning process.

Looking ahead, the report further notes that effective longer-term sport planning initiatives and reliable data on school sport is essential.

“We need to consciously invest in school sport and we're looking at allocating 40% of our procurement grant to all provinces to school sports initiatives. The key is better alignment and coordination between our department, schools and federations themselves,” said Xasa, adding that there is a need to audit school sports facilities.

Over the past five years, the quality of data related to the number of sport participating schools sourced from different role players was, with few exceptions, sub-standard and unreliable.

Despite these challenges, the report said that effective underage sport participation and skills development for most learners remains inadequate because of the relatively low percentage of schools that provide structured sports participation opportunity – an average of about 12%.

The report revealed that a declining historic human capital resource base for sport because of a changing national population demographic is beginning to impact codes that are without a meaningful footprint in the school environment.

This will affect the longer-term sustainability and competitiveness of several codes.

Both primary and senior school sport participation profiles are dominated by what appears to be sub-optimal and unconfirmed sport participating schools: 14 773 primary and 5 918 senior schools.

Facility constraints, teacher reluctance to be involved in organising, administering and coaching sports activities and ineffective implementation of MoUs between the Department of Sport and Department of Basic Education have been identified as the reasons for this challenges.

To address this challenge, Xasa said government is in the process of being reviewed to address the challenges preventing the establishment of a coordinated and seamless school sports system to improve access and delivery of school sport.

“The implementation will ensure a functional school sports system that will form a robust foundation for the successful transformation of sport in the country,” the Minister added.

EPG chairperson Happy Ntshingila said they will continue to pursue the ideals of the Transformation Charter.

“Transformation will forever remain the right thing to do and the EPG, through its management system, will continue to vigorously evaluate, monitor and report on the progress or lack thereof. Its an onerous and emotional task – but it has to be done." –