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Sascoc to assist embattled Athletics SA

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Sascoc President Gideon Sam.

Johannesburg – South Africa's Olympic governing body has stepped in to help the country's embattled athletics federation, as in-fighting continues within Athletics SA's (ASA) executive board.

Gideon Sam, the president of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), confirmed they had met members of the ASA board on Tuesday.

“We are trying to assist them with financial issues, and we have asked our CEO and CFO to work closely with ASA to resolve these issues.”

But ASA president James Evans said the “rebel” executive members who attended the meeting had no mandate from the federation's board.

Sam believed there was no under-handed behaviour from the ASA officials who were at the meeting in Johannesburg.

“We had also met with ASA in December,” Sam said.

“The difference this time was that the president was not present, because he's in Kenya.”

Evans confirmed he was in the east-African country, attending a Confederation of African Athletics marketing meeting, but he had not been informed that ASA board members would be meeting with the Sascoc executive.

He believed ASA vice-president Hendrick Ramaala had led the delegation, but their approach to Sascoc had not been raised at the previous ASA board meeting, which Ramaala did not attend.

“The ASA board members who attended the Sascoc meeting did not advise the other board members that they were intending to do so. They had no mandate,” Evans said on Wednesday.

“The ASA board met two weeks ago and this was not discussed.”

Ramaala was unavailable for comment.

Financial trouble had all but crippled ASA, with Yellow Pages opting not to renew its sponsorship of the national track and field season, leaving provincial bodies to organise their own events this year.

The federation had been without a road running sponsor since October 2009, when Nedbank ended its contract one year early, after ASA was plunged into turmoil by the Caster Semenya gender debacle.

In February 2011, ASA president Leonard Chuene, vice-president Kakata Maponyane and executive member Simon Dlamini were all banned by Sascoc from involvement in any sport, for terms ranging between three and seven years, for maladministration.

In October last year, ASA sacked recently appointed CEO Frik Vermaak for mismanagament of funds, among other charges. Vermaak appealed the findings of his disciplinary hearing.

Evans confirmed ASA had reached a settlement with Vermaak last week. He could not reveal the terms due to a confidentiality clause.

Despite continued financial troubles, and accusations of a rebel group of ASA board members approaching Sascoc without a mandate, Sam said there was still hope the athletics body would find its feet.

In December last year, ASA appointed a committee to address its financial crisis in an effort to service its R4.3 million debt.

“There is a ray of light,” Sam said.

“A deal with SABC is on the cards, which will go a long way toward solving some of these issues.”

Sam said Sascoc was considering funding between 12 and 15 athletes in the build-up to the World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Russia, in August.

“That way they won't be dependent on ASA, because we don't want to find ourselves in the same boat as we did the last few years, when the athletes were not ready for battle.

“At the world championships we want the athletes to be battle-ready.” –Sapa


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