The SA Hockey Association (Saha) has told the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) it has caused crippling long-term damage to the sport by denying the national men’s and women’s teams their places at next year’s Olympic Games.
Saha confirmed on Friday it had a last-ditch bid turned down in its attempt to get both teams to the Rio showpiece.
“Saha has with regret received the news that the South African hockey national teams will not be permitted to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” the federation said in a statement after receiving final correspondence from Sascoc.
A petition signed by more than 13 000 people was handed to Sascoc chief executive Tubby Reddy last week, calling for the Olympic body to overturn its decision to deny most athletes and teams the option of qualifying through continental competitions.
Both national hockey teams won the recent African Championships in Randburg and secured qualification for the multi-sport showpiece.
Sascoc, however, signed a policy agreement with Saha earlier this year insisting both squads would need to qualify through the World League tournaments in order to be selected. Neither side achieved the more stringent international criteria.
On Tuesday, Saha chief executive Marissa Langeni sent a letter to Reddy, appealing for the Olympic body to review its policy “as a matter of urgency” after the petition was passed on to the Sascoc board.
In the letter, Langeni claimed the criteria was “an automatic exclusion of hockey in Sascoc’s Olympic campaign” as international qualifying was too much to ask of the amateur SA men’s and women’s teams, who were ranked 15th and 11th in the world respectively.
Langeni claimed the policy agreement signed between Saha and Sascoc was a mere formality and refusal to sign could have caused conflict between the two bodies.
She believed the agreement presented to Saha was a final decision made by Sascoc, alleging that the Olympic body had no intention to negotiate and would not consider the hockey body’s pleas to adjust the criteria.
She admitted, however, it had been a “mistake” to sign the agreement.
Two other federations, Cycling SA and the SA Football Association, had refused to sign the policy document and successfully convinced Sascoc to adjust its criteria for the men’s road cycling team, Banyana Banyana and the SA Under-23 football side.
With neither hockey team competing in Rio, and significant ranking points on offer, Saha predicted both squads would drop as many as five positions in the global lists, which would affect their participation at other major events.
The hockey body also claimed the teams’ absence from Rio would affect their long-term potential and could damage their chances or securing medals at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban.
“The decision taken by Sascoc is crippling and will have long lasting negative ramifications for the sport of hockey. The decision taken is by no measure in the interest of the sport,” the federation said.
“We wholeheartedly apologise to the hockey community for failing to ensure that the SA hockey teams remain in SA’s Olympic campaign.”
It will be the first time in 20 years that neither SA hockey team will compete at the quadrennial Games.