Trevor Cramer

By Trevor Cramer

Senior sports sub-editor

National teams should not have to become desperate beggars

With a potentially bigger Team SA heading for Tokyo, national federations like SAHA, and by association the players, will have to dip into their own pockets.

It is sad when a national team has to resort to crowd funding like desperate beggars just to represent their country, and they should feel understandably let down by their administrators who cry poverty.

That the SA hockey teams have met all the Olympic qualifying criteria via continental and inter-continental routes is a small miracle in itself and testament to their enduring enthusiasm.

Why specifically choose to hone in on hockey’s plight you must be asking, when there are a whole wad of other codes in the same predicament?

Well, having covered the sport in the 90’s at all levels and kept a close eye on the game over the years, I still have a strong affinity.

It is encouraging to note the undertaking by the country’s national Olympic committee, Sascoc, to fund the South African hockey teams’ participation at the Tokyo Olympics.

To date the sport’s mother body, the South African Hockey Association (SAHA), has not been asked to contribute and recent statements from Sascoc indicate they will be able to deliver the squads as part of the broader Team SA to Tokyo.

Not resting on their laurels, however, the SA men’s hockey team were proactive and with the assistance of commercial manager Brett Tucker enlisted the help of the digital platform to launch a crowd-funding campaign, which has raised R300,000 to date.

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As SAHA’s CEO Marissa Langeni went to great pains to point out, unlike the 2012 Games in London where the allocation of funding also included the preparation phase, Sascoc would be covering only team delivery in 2021.

The London 2012 windfall was largely due to a successful funding application to the national lottery (Lotto) by the country’s Olympic body.

But with a potentially bigger Team SA heading for Tokyo, relaxation of certain qualifying criteria and vastly reduced funding from the Department of Sport and Lotto, national federations like SAHA, and by association the players, will still have to dip into their own pockets.

The preparation phase is a costly exercise too, but it is being hampered by factors beyond mere financial concerns, like a lack of strong competition and Covid-19 travel challenges.

A proposed tour by the 11th-ranked Malaysian men’s team to these shores has been cancelled due to Covid concerns and their women’s team look just as unlikely to tour, while an Indian men’s tour earlier this year was also canned.

The teams have, nevertheless, continued with centralised camps and the men’s side have just completed a Test series against Namibia, with a women’s series also pencilled in.

As Langeni again expounded, it is difficult in the current situation to offer a value proposition to sponsors or sell sponsorship packages in this environment, or create a sustainable funding model.

Hence, a financial model part-funded by SAHA and part-funded by players will continue to prevail.

Many smaller sporting codes, be it in individual or team sports, are drifting down a river in the same boat.

Kudos to our hockey teams and their no-excuse attitude. As national men’s head coach Garreth Ewing put it: “We are not playing victim. We are simply creating a movement of support.”