Soweto Marathon in crisis

2013-09-15 14:01

Gauteng’s department of sport, arts, culture and recreation has once again bailed out of the Soweto Marathon.

Following a week of uncertainty – where the race was off, on, off and on again – MEC Lebogang Maile told City Press that his department will inject R900 000 to rescue the troubled race.

Maile’s office forked out R700 000 towards the race last year as the organisers incurred a deficit.

Prize monies for the event, which took place in November last year, were only paid recently while Athletics SA (ASA) was under the administration of Zola Majavu.

This year, the Soweto Marathon Trust asked ASA for R5 million to organise the race, which is scheduled to take place on November 3.

ASA turned down the request even though they had received money from the SABC for broadcast rights.

This led to the trust announcing the race was off as they had no funds.

But after several interventions this week, there was confirmation the race will indeed be held.

The trust’s spokesperson, Banele Sindani, who had been on several SABC platforms announcing that the race was off, told City Press on Friday: “There is nothing new that we are going to say, we pronounced our position and we stand by it.

“Talk to the person who says the race is on.”

ASA president James Evans, who had issued a statement confirming the race would go ahead, refused to comment.

The Soweto Marathon has been in jeopardy since Nedbank pulled out as sponsors almost four years ago.

The R10 million the SABC gave to ASA for broadcast rights to the Comrades Marathon, the Two Oceans Marathon and the Soweto Marathon was seen as a bailout.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said: “As far as we are concerned, the race is on as per the agreement with our partner ASA. We haven’t received anything from ASA that says the race has been cancelled.

“The problem is between ASA and that group (the trust). We can’t be involved because they were not there when we signed the contract with ASA. We have already paid the broadcast fee.”

This week’s explosion has been brewing for some time as ASA, which previously administered the race, had been under severe pressure from Soweto athletics clubs to hand over custody of the iconic race.

The clubs accused ASA of using the race as a cash cow and alleged the federation was deviating from its mission of developing athletics in the sprawling township.

As things stand (for now, at least) the race is on.

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