Transformation in sport: Not much achieved in 21 years

2015-04-06 11:00

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Representation systems have been spoken about in key sporting codes for 21 years – it’s now time for federations to take action

According to its dictionary definition, transformation is a change in form, appearance, nature or character.

However, this word has become a monster in the rooms of many sporting codes in South Africa, particularly cricket and rugby – and unless something drastic is done, it will always be just a theoretical definition.

Last week, the governing ANC demanded greater transformation of the South African cricket team.

“Cricket SA must urgently address the issue of transformation. The only African in the squad, Aaron Phangiso, was also the only player who did not get game time during the whole [2015 ICC cricket World Cup],” ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told a press conference after the party’s recent national executive council meeting.

Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula also called for the SA Rugby Union (Saru) to transform – before government could endorse its 2023 World Cup bid.

Since the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994, transformation has been on the agenda of many sporting codes as a way to address previous imbalances.

It is now 21 years later and not much has been achieved. Federations still have to address the issue of players who appear to remain marginalised due to the colour of their skin.

Affirmative action, black economic empowerment and broad-based black economic empowerment efforts have gone a long way in redressing past inequalities in socioeconomic and political arenas – but sport still lags behind.

It was a year ago that the transformation charter drawn up by an eminent persons group (EPG), was signed by five federations and handed to the sports minister.

It focused on rugby, cricket, football, netball and athletics and sought to address areas such as access, skills and capabilities, governance and employment equity.

The intention was for the EPG to work with federations to define individual workable targets.

Last year, Mbalula said the quota system, as documented in the 2011 national sports plan, would be aggressively implemented.

“We will insist on a change from a 50:50 proportion to a 40:60 [white:black] representation, both provincially and nationally,” he said.

But a year later, still nothing has been done.

Mbalula last week warned federations that failed to deliver on agreed transformation targets that they would face expulsion from South African sport.

He said memorandums of agreement would be signed with several federations this month, including Cricket SA, Saru and Safa.

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