Ockert de Villiers.
South African athletics is establishing itself as one of the powerhouses in the world, but has to start wearing its big-boy pants along with the other major codes in the country.

Athletics SA (ASA) was rapped on the knuckles for the second consecutive year at the release of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Transformation in Sport’s status report.

ASA was among four national federations that were banned from bidding and hosting major and mega international tournaments after failing to meet transformation targets.

This week, newly appointed Sports Minister Thulas Nxesi announced netball, rugby and cricket would be allowed to bid to host major international events again.

Athletics were given a reprieve last year when they received special permission to host the African Senior Championships.

ASA’s initial ban was largely due to missing deadlines or not making any submissions at all during the auditing process.

The federation once again failed to provide the data to accurately gauge its progress in terms of transformation and providing equal opportunities to athletes.

“If we look more closely at the data on athletics contained in the EPG report, we see that the problem is that you simply didn’t provide data against a number of categories,” Nxesi said. “This points to a lack of systems and poor structures and governance in the code, and my department will work with you to address these challenges.”

The last point is nothing to be proud of, but with latest EPG reports reflecting outdated data, the situation could have changed since.

Caster Semenya won gold at the Rio Olympics, but a lot more can be done to develop athletes in South Africa. Photo: Mike Egerton, PA

Athletics is currently going though a period of renewal as the federation looks to shed the failures of administrations past.

“Athletics SA, you have presented us with a dilemma. Your score against the target you set for yourselves is again less than 50 percent, and yet the department senses that things are improving under new leadership,” Nxesi said.

“Of course you made South Africa proud by the performance of your athletes in Rio.”

The federation once again received a get-out-of-jail-free pass as the Minister pointed out the process was corrective instead of punitive, and it would work with ASA to make changes.

Aligning school athletics with that of the mother body has been an issue over the past few years, with Nxesi highlighting this among the changes that needed to be made.

“I am, therefore, issuing a directive to ASA to directly exercise control over the South African Schools Athletics’ Association (Sasaa), with the intention of strengthening governance accountability alignment and the organisation of competitions and identification of talent,” he said.

Things have already started to change in this regard, and one can only hope improved relationships between ASA and Sasaa will lead to greater successes on the track.

South Africa finished fifth overall on the medal table of the IAAF’s standings out of 207 participating countries at the Rio Olympics, which highlights the nation’s potential.

Saturday Star

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