Public outcry: Should Sport Transformation be transformed?


South African Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, dropped a bombshell on the national sporting federations, on way to revoke its privileges of hosting or a bid thereof to stage any particular major international sporting events in the country.

The revoke was extended to four of South Africa’s major sporting federations – Athletics South Africa (ASA), Cricket South Africa (CSA), Netball South Africa (NSA) and the South African Rugby Union (SARU).

“I have resolved to revoke the aforementioned federations in not meeting their own transformation targets with immediate effect,” said Minister Mbalula in a statement.

Transformation. A deeming movement and policy shadowing South African sport since the overturn of the country’s democracy 22 years ago.

The policy of transformation is necessary, to heed up lost time and opportunities for the once disadvantaged populace of a painstakingly healing South Africa – namely, the people; or in this case, the players of colour participating on major sporting platforms.

Emphasis on ‘colour’, including blacks, coloured or indians alike, by which to facilitate their needs or opportunities to exposure on reaching the country’s most widespread sporting platforms.

As much as transformation is unarguably necessary for downright balance and equality for what was once unjust to the majority, it can be questioned as to whether it is being implemented correctly as a whole in this democracy.

Sport is not a tool, it is not merely a movement that can just be adjusted or altered – it is also not just something that can just be learned from scratch value. It is something that needs to be developed and moulded through the ages.

Talent consumes sport, with talent comes positive performance value and without it there will not be winning potential and inversely, without winning, the sport in the country will be unsuccessful. It is, ultimately, about competing on the global scale.

The question is, will implementing transformation at the highest professional arena be the right way forward?

There seems to be no obvious stipulated yes or no answer to that question, as the professional arena is ultimately all that matters for the concerned federation. At the same time, the make-up of the federation sporting participants need to come through the systems based on performance achievement.

Race, or the colour of your skin, does not go hand-in-hand with being good at a particular sport or not. However, in this aforementioned context, it becomes relevant. The only issue is that, sporting teams alike want the best-of-the-best to compete at the highest level, irrespective of race.

This raises the point that players of colour need to be developed from grassroots level, before they can be exposed to professional settings. Rather than slamming down on the professional sporting federations, a special focus should steer toward development and how it is implemented in the vast disadvantaged areas of South Africa.

If players get selected for sides, just because they are coloured, over other probable white players who may be better than them, it will certainly see a decline in performance value.

That cannot be the right way forward for any sporting mind. If the correct developmental procedures were to be put in place, especially to the concerned people of colour, then more players of colour will certainly move through the ranks, and on merit and merit alone.

In that way, black players will increase in numbers and compete much better on the professional scale. Transformation is supposed to cancel itself out with merit-based selection and it will through rural developmental programmes or procedures and through more exposure to residents alike.

As it stands now, there is not enough being done at the root level of each sport. For instance, there are only two black dominated schools in the current top 30 rugby schools rankings. In addition, the only two black dominated universities in Fort Hare University and Tshwane University of Technology, competing in the Varsity Shield rugby competition placed last and second-last in the league this year respectively. Taking note that the Varsity Shield is also the second varsity division league to the Varsity Cup.

Sporting codes in question are also possibly not being broadcasted or exposed enough to the majority as much as it is supposed to. Rugby, cricket, netball and even athletics are for one, not being broadcasted on the default South African channels in SABC One, Two and Three, as well as ETV, which can question the proficiency of exposure to those sports as opposed to football. Football being the most prominent and effective sport among the disadvantaged populace.

When a tree is cut down, it is not cut down from the top at its minority of twigs and smaller branches, it is cut down from the bottom threshold that holds everything together. The same concept should be applied to transformation, but instead not cutting it down, but uplifting it – from the bottom majority to the top minority of professional athletes/players.

It was argued in statements that the minority in South Africa is reflected as the majority in its sporting sides. Sporting sides are not supposed to reflect the demographics of a country, but instead, just the best-of-the-best, with all race aside. Therefore instead of taking sides of minority versus majority, if implemented correctly, transformation should drive for unity.

After all, how will revoking the professional setting of privileges solve the real underlying issues? The vast rural populations are hungry for success, it should be given to them, and given to them deservedly – the answer only being development. Political stand-points should rather aid in this development, rather than interfere with the sport alone. 

Ultimately, if development fails - then the principle can be compared to the National Basketball Association in America. The NBA is 74.4% black, yet America's population is 77.7% white. That clearly does not reflect the country's demographics ratio, yet it is all their best competing at the highest level. If the best on merit significantly leans toward one race over another, then so be it - if it is based all on merit, then all for it. That is what sport is all about - to be competitive at all spheres.