Sport Officialdom In South Africa Must Question Their White-Dominated Sports By Cheryl Roberts

29 Jan


25 Years After Apartheid, South African Sport Still Grapples With Transformation. 25 years ago, South Africa’s unified sports network was unequal with whites having most of the sports resources and blacks (all those people not white) having minimal sports resource. Whites dominated most national sports teams like rugby cricket, hockey, athletics, swimming.

At the advent of sports unity, it was a demand that sport, at the juncture of 1994 freedom from apartheid, was a reflection of what was inherited from the horrendous apartheid system. Sport had to be transformed!

After much deliberations, discussions, debates, conferences, conversations, transformation of sport still dominates the characterisation of sport in South Africa.

Why are several sports such as hockey, netball, swimming, golf, gymnastics, tennis, badminton, squash and many others still white-dominated? All SA’s post-apartheid Olympic swim teams have been white. National and provincial tennis and hockey teams are white-saturated. Why is this happening when freedom from apartheid was achieved 25 years ago?

Sports officials answer by saying something like ‘development is needed but there’s no money’ because there’s too little funding given to most non-corporate sports. But if whites can dominate sports teams and elite participation in sport, then why can’t the blacks also come through the system?

In sports such as netball and hockey, its always white majority selection, representation and game time. But some black players in netball and hockey have proven their world class mettle just like their white team-mates. If some black players could be recognised, surely there are many others who can also be recognised and given opportunities like the white players?

When I mention ‘whites’ I mention you as a group. I know not whites have the same thinking. I refer to your inherited white privileges from apartheid and generational wealth. I refer to some of the dominant prevailing thinking that ‘white payer selection and representation is merit’ in sport and ‘black player selection and representation is development’.

I write these hard-hitting words, am asking the hard questions because we’ve had enough of white domination in sport in South Africa. We’ve had enough of black players being strangled in sports like netball and hockey. Why must black players also be in developmental mode? Is it because whites have a white superiority complex? What is it with your white lens?

Its 25 years since our freedom from apartheid – all of our freedom. But 25 years later, we still have white dominated sports teams. This is unacceptable! Have you addressed this serious and authentic conversation within your federation? Have you tried education your federation about disrupting white superior thinking in your federation?

And don’t go on about football being black dominated. Get this! Football is a mass sport in SA, played in every working class community and township. If white controlled suburban, elite/private schools don’t advance sport at their schools, then don’t expect white youngsters to come thru in large numbers in the sport of football.

Its not just about player selection and representation. It’s also about officialdom in sport. How do you explain having mostly white exec committees such as cycling and fencing?

White dominated sport must be disrupted. We are not living in the apartheid era where whites had all opportunities in sport and believed they were SA’s sports representatives. We are in the post-apartheid era where we acknowledge a South African society to exist for all who live in the country.

For how much longer are you going to persist with majority white teams at provincial and national levels? Are you going to sanction such white saturation for another 25 years?

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