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South African athletics stalwart Shaun Bownes believes board room politics is killing a once flourishing sport, following the first of three permit meetings this season, held in Potchefstroom on Tuesday evening.
“At this stage athletics is dying a slow death and we seriously need to up our game and get it back on track,” Bownes said after his first 110 metres hurdles race in four years.
The 42-year-old pointed at the near empty pavilion and recalled the heyday of athletics when there was a clamour to find seats at local meetings.
“There are 20 people in the pavilion and it hurts me to see the way things are going,” he said. “I’ve been running for the last 20 years and I remember when I was 18 years old, you couldn’t even find a place in the stadium.
“These days there is nothing and I really hope that the powers that are in control, between ASA (Athletics SA) and Sascoc (the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee), start cleaning house and start taking hands and forget about the politics.”
Having lost its corporate road running and track and field sponsors, ASA is facing ongoing internal issues, with more than half the board attempting to have president James Evans ousted from his post.
Bownes, however, believed allowing the provinces and clubs to host elite competitions could be the sport’s saving grace.
“That’s the way it used to be. Each club had their own meeting and it is time that the clubs and provinces take ownership,” he said.
“I can remember as a junior athlete each and every province had their own sponsorships, their own advertising and broadcasting.”
Tuesday’s meeting in Potchefstroom included a strong field which produced some solid performances from the athletes. However, some athletes shunned the meeting despite accepting an invitation to participate. – Sapa