Shaun Keeling and Lawrence Brittain on their way to silver at the Rio Olympics last year. Photo: Urs Flueeler, Keystone via AP

JOHANNESBURG – The progress South Africa has made on the Olympic stage since the dawn of democracy is teetering on the brink of collapse as the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) face significant funding cuts.

Sascoc chief executive Tubby Reddy this week revealed new regulations adopted by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), which could see the Olympic body close their doors within 10 months.

The National Lottery Commission (NLC) have countered Reddy’s claims that Sascoc will be relegated to a normal sporting federation, which would mean a funding cap of R5 million over a two-year period.

In previous years Sascoc had received between R60m and R70m from the NLDTF.

Last year Sascoc received an 11th-hour R70m bailout from the lottery organisation ahead of the Rio Olympic Games.

The NLC would also introduce a 12-month cooling-off period between grants to prevent dependency on funding from lottery.

Responding to reports on Sascoc’s plight, the NLC let the cat out of the bag by saying funding could not be used for international events.

“In previous years, Sascoc were funded for, among others, team preparation for international events,” the NLC said in the statement.

“National Federations of Sport were also funded for international events. The new regulations do not make provision for activities outside the borders of SA.

“However, preparation and participation within SA would be available within the applications submitted.”

Should this be enforced, Sascoc would not be able to deliver on their mandate to prepare and deliver teams to multi-coded international games like the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games.

While the funding to national federations has been increased from R2m to R5m, it would be subjected to the same regulations.

The new regulations come at a time when South Africa is finally finding its feet on the Olympic stage after two successful campaigns in London 2012 and Rio 2016.

The changes have far-reaching consequences for the so-called cinderella sports like athletics, swimming, rowing and triathlon.

These sports have largely benefited from funding received from Sascoc over the last two Olympic cycles.

While these measures are introduced to reduce dependency on NLC funding, Sascoc and the other federations are already battling to find alternative sponsorships.

The funds are not limited for use at major events like the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games, but age-group competitions that play an integral part in unearthing future talent.

It effectively means funds could not be used for regional, continental or youth Games outside South Africa.

That leaves Sascoc with a crisis as it would not be able to effectively fulfil their mandate of preparing and delivering teams.

South Africa has made massive inroads at the Olympic Games, winning six medals in London 2012 before returning with their best medal haul since 1920, winning 10 in Rio.

Facing the massive funding cuts could prove detrimental to sports like rowing that capture the essence of what the Olympics should be all about.

Unlike major sports such as football, rugby and cricket, these sports do not have the luxury of individuals earning massive salaries. They rely on donations and funding from entities like the lottery.

With the risk of sounding over-dramatic, this will effectively take the cinderella sports back to an isolated apartheid era.

Saturday Star

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