To Be World Class In Sport, SA’s Sportswomen Need More Funding By Cheryl Roberts

14 Jan

It’s now official that the SASCOC decision is that the South African women’s hockey team and the South African women’s rugby sevens team, despite qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics, will not be participating in the Olympics and will not be representing SA. However, despite their low international ranking and being nowhere near world class or potential Olympic medalists or finalists, women’s football will be participating in the Rio Olympics.

This is the SASCOC ruling, taken at Board level and at council representation of sports federations affiliated to SASCOC, applicable to both women’s and men’s teams, and sportswomen and sportsmen when it comes to 2016 Olympic participation.

SASCOC has taken a decision, over a year ago, that Olympic qualification would not necessarily mean Olympic participation and representation for South Africa. The reason for this decision, according to SASCOC, is that South African Olympic qualifiers must be one of potential, possible and probable Olympic medallists and finalists. SASCOC argues that world class achievement is what the sports body is after; not mediocre placings.

Had there been solidarity amongst women’s sports teams and women athletes, there would have been much protest and resistance to this decision. Shouldn’t the women’s football teams should also protest and stand in solidarity with the women’s hockey and women’s rugby sevens team? But, in the absence of national resistance movement against the gender inequalities in sport, those who hold and wield power in sports officialdom believe they can officiate sport while gender inequalities and gender struggles thrive.

I’m arguing for solidarity amongst the women’s teams because hockey, rugby and football are all affected by sport’s gender inequalities of unequal, inadequate, unfair  sports sponsorship and funding.

Women’s football, although very weak internationally shouldn’t be going to the Rio Olympics, according to the SASCOC ruling. However, women’s football escaped via a FIFA ruling that Africa’s women’s football teams would qualify only via Africa for the Rio Olympics and no other way of an international ranking, even if the African team was ranked lower than other countries who should be participating in the Olympics.

The common ground for resistance and protest to take root is because women’s sports and South Africa’s women athletes are unequally funded in sports sponsorship and financial assistance; this financial burden impacting negatively on SA’s sports women’s participation internationally.

SASCOC correctly takes and should take decisions in the interest of South African sport. Nothing wrong with that! But when the decisions are against struggling women in sport, who participate in sport in chains, taken by male-dominated sports boards and officials, then we must ask for intervention in the interests of sportswomen.

How do you apply and implement the same ruling at the top of SA sport, for both men and women in sport when we have an imbalance and unequal sports network? How are struggling women participating in sport expected to become world class and achieve high international rankings when they participate internationally with meagre funding and sometimes have to personally pay their costs to represent their country internationally.

SASCOC should take such decisions knowing that SA’s sportswomen were honestly assisted and funded to participate internationally. I’m of the opinion that this ruling should be reviewed for future Olympic participation. How do you take such a decision while the men’s sports of football, rugby and cricket receive SA’s majority funding with some handouts given now and then to women in sport and sportswomen?

If we accept that SASCOC exists to advance South African sport then we must question

why they don’t focus on the gender inequalities and imbalances which exist in the sports network and which subsequently impacts negatively on women’s sport in SA.

For now, the sportswomen are on their own with their sports federations and sports officials whom, I’m of my opinion, don’t speak up for sports teams and players. Sports people have got to use their power and protest and resist and challenge, for instance, embark on protest marches to parliament and demand adequate and sufficient sports funding for SA’s sportswomen. IMG_7942

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