Soweto marathon off the map

Soweto Marathon (Gallo Images)
Soweto Marathon (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - The Soweto Marathon, which was to have been held in November, has been cancelled and the race organisers are blaming Athletics SA (ASA).

Soweto Marathon Trust chairman Sello Khunou said on Monday it had not received co-operation from former organisers ASA in its attempt to secure funds from the ASA's broadcast deal with the SABC.

"We believe that we have a duty to inform the public that we put the cancellation of this year's race squarely at ASA's door," he said.

"We do not intend to engage in a blame game. All we want is to put the facts on the table, and in this regard, ASA is clearly the elephant in the room in this matter.

"We wish to state, without mincing our words, that it is primarily the current ongoing in-fighting within ASA that has practically helped to dissuade potential sponsors for the race, and ruined our chances of securing a sponsor."

Members of the Trust met James Evans, who is president of the embattled federation, last week.

"Mr Evans informed us that he cannot let us have the broadcast rights fee for the race, because the money is already earmarked for settling some or other ASA debts," Khunou said.

"We then informed him that in that case we had no alternative but to cancel this year’s race."

Evans had said he could secure a sponsor for the annual event, on condition that ASA was allowed to organise the race.

"We asked Mr Evans about the reason for the conditionality, and whether it came from him [ASA] or the potential sponsor, and he could not answer our question. The trust rejected Mr Evans's offer."

Had the trust received the television broadcast rights fee for the race, Khunou believed it could have gone ahead.

"Mr Evans's act of grabbing the TV broadcast rights fee for the race amounts to blatant robbery," Khunou said.

"We wish to state without flinching that Mr Evans was dishonest in dealing with the whole matter of TV broadcast rights for the Soweto Marathon.

"It is against this background that we have no alternative but to question Mr Evans’s ulterior motives."

Khunou said the trust could not honour a contract it had not seen, in which it had obligations, but no corresponding rights.

"It is clear that the rot within ASA is not only destroying ASA, but that it is now beginning to consume iconic events like the Soweto Marathon, slowly but surely," he said.

The Soweto Marathon Trust took control of this year's event from former organisers ASA and Central Gauteng Athletics.

The race, which was launched in 1991, has not had a sponsor since Nedbank cut short its road running deal with ASA four years ago.

Evans was contacted for comment, but did not respond.

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