Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
3 minute read
22 Feb 2014
8:00 am

Cinderella sports change tack

Wesley Botton

Locked in a relentless loop for some time, swirling below the radar in a catch-22 whirlpool, South Africa's cinderella sports codes seem to be gaining traction as they garner support from spectators and sponsors.

Wesley Botton.

With three sports hogging much of the financial backing, media airwaves and ticket sales in recent years, other codes have struggled to run professional set-ups and provide solid development platforms and high-performance programmes.

The tides, however, look to be turning as various federations come to terms with the lack of funding and make it work with what they’ve got.

Tennis SA has lost two ATP tournaments in recent years, but it has since turned back the clock, reverting towards previous structures that gave South Africa two top-10 players shortly after readmission.

Rather than attracting international players to major tournaments, TSA has decided to focus on creating numerous smaller events that will give young players a chance to earn points at home and launch professional careers.

Despite our Davis Cup team languishing in the Euro-Africa Group II division, the turnout at Irene Country Club on the final day of the recent victory over Monaco is a clear indication that there is still tremendous interest in the sport.

Meanwhile, Netball SA will announce a new kit sponsor next month in its continued effort to create a professional environment for its players, as the national team steadily gains confidence.

Victories over England and Jamaica in recent seasons have indicated the potential in the squad, and a professional league at home will assist further as the Proteas target the top four teams in the world.

Elsewhere, Cycling SA is making huge strides in its attempt to establish the country among the global elite, having hosted the 2010 BMX World Championships and last year’s Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg.

On the bike, Daryl Impey, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and Greg Minnaar continue to pave new ground for African cycling, shining for international trade outfits after laying their foundations at home.

And though Swimming SA has been unable to find a major corporate sponsor, the federation has nonetheless been able to keep the cogs turning.

The Learn to Swim programme continues to promote the sport among the masses while Chad le Clos, Cameron van der Burgh and a host of rising stars are proving the high performance programme is bearing fruit.

Hockey SA has sponsors for the national men’s and women’s teams for the first time in ages, and Rowing SA is starting to secure much needed funding for boats.

Conversely, Athletics SA and Boxing SA have been hit by numerous administrative issues in recent years, and both organisations will do well to feed off the success of those around them if they hope to overcome the hurdles they face.

Numerous codes have gone back to their roots in search of a way to blossom and eventually shed the “cinderella” tag.

It’s difficult for a federation to entice sponsors without a solid support structure, and without sponsors it’s equally challenging to build a decent structure.

But tennis, netball, cycling, swimming, hockey and rowing are proving they can slow the whirlpool and rise from the wake to grab a decent chunk of the lucrative sports industry.

If others are to follow suit, they’ll need to get their houses in order and start from scratch.