Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
3 minute read
24 May 2014
3:00 pm

Perhaps administrators will listen to Zola

Wesley Botton

Athletics South Africa's administrators have become so accustomed to pointing fingers that a senior official shifted the blame on the media this week.

Wesley Botton.

Sello Mokoena, one of the five individuals nominated for the president’s seat on the new board, told a colleague and I that we needed to get our facts straight or we would damage the federation permanently.

Perhaps Mokoena believes the media has the power to destroy a sports organisation. That may even be true, but in ASA’s case the administrators have managed to bring the federation to its knees all on their own.

In the last five years, ASA has twice been placed under administration by Sascoc, and at one point last year the organisation was suspended from the Olympic movement.

The iconic Soweto Marathon was cancelled last season and athletes were denied participation at this year’s African Cross Country Championships and the inaugural World Relay Championships, while others have been forced to pay their own costs to attend major international events.

Three athletics administrators have been banned by Sascoc, while many others have been so caught up in their battle for power that the IAAF found the federation had come to a standstill.

Sascoc, the IAAF and the Confederation of African Athletics have all told ASA’s leaders to stop their fighting and start working together, but the war continues as they blame everyone but themselves for the state of chaos.

Not once has an ASA administrator publicly accepted responsibility for the financially crippled federation’s numerous problems, choosing instead to point fingers at anyone who steps into their path of destruction.

Their refusal to stop the blame game, however, is seemingly apparent even to those who are no longer involved in the sport at national level.

I had the pleasure this week of meeting Zola Budd for the first time, and even Budd, who lives more than 10 000km away, can see where the problem lies.

“I’ve always said we have so much potential in South African athletics, but the administration needs to be sorted out and the athletes need to feel they are supported. That’s the most important thing,” she said.

According to Budd, SA athletes received more opportunities from the national governing body during her career, despite the international sanctions placed on the country at the time.

“We had a lot of permit meetings and I don’t think the athletes have the same support now as they did in the late Eighties and early Nineties.”

South Africa’s domestic track and field circuit was so competitive in the Nineties, some of the world’s top athletes competed here on a regular basis.

This season, aside from the various national championships, which were funded by provincial bodies, only one permit meeting was held.

And if Jean Verster at North-West University had not put that event together, there would not have been a single permit meeting. It’s easy to point fingers, but perhaps ASA officials need to stop for a moment and consider the consequences.

Enough people have told them what needs to be done to rebuild the SA athletics family, and until they start accepting responsibility for their actions it will not happen.

They may not have any interest in listening to Sascoc, the CAA or the IAAF, but perhaps they will listen to Budd.