Transformation report: Rugby still lagging behind

There is a glimmer of hope at the end of a long sports transformation tunnel. This was the message delivered at the release of the 2016/17 transformation status report in Hatfield, Pretoria on Monday morning.

Rugby, hockey and tennis were among the codes which received poor ratings while there were signs of improvement for cricket.

“Efforts have, for 23 years, been largely successful in bringing about an effectively transformed sport system and causing substantial consequential damage for many in the process,” Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa in opening the release. She went on to insist that transformation is not only important for sport, but is vital for the very concept of nation-building itself.

Xasa presented the report by the Eminent Persons Group on Transformation in Sport (EPG). The commission is responsible for collecting data from the various federations in the country and subsequently providing recommendations going forward. The report was based largely on data from 2016.

In her address, Xasa made it clear that a potential funding cut awaits any federation which does not comply with the government’s vision for transformation. The report, however, did not suggest any federation should face that fate just yet. What it did do was highlight the long battles to transform, which await many federations.


Of the major codes, football unsurprisingly stood as the most diverse, with 92% “generic black” — the term for Indian, coloured and black African — male participation rate. Boxing, table tennis and volleyball had the next highest scores in that regard. The female comparisons of the four largely mirrored those percentages.

Cricket, while still some distance from accurately representing the population, showed some improvement. From a 55% white representation in 2015, it is now at 40%. Only 24% of the average team is black African, however. The senior female rate is only slightly worse off with 21% representation.

Rugby — historically the biggest offender of the major codes — is still some way off from placating the group.

The average national senior male demographic was 58% white while 22% was black African. It is worth noting, however, that the latter figure is up 12% from the previous year. The sport fairs better in the women’s category, achieving a 61% generic black participation rate.

“Leadership in codes with large white demographic profiles have to be proactive in putting strategies in place to counter the inevitable consequences of the strategic demographic realities highlighted above,” the report said in conclusion to its rugby figures.

Athletics, with a 30% black African female representation rate, was not favourably reviewed by the report.

“It’s a source of great worry,” said EPG secretariat Willie basson at the event. “Every four years they go off, win medals, but no one asks what they look like?”

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

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