Athlete Sunette Viljoen (right) has found it difficult to compete internationally due to funding issues. Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs
Athlete Sunette Viljoen (right) has found it difficult to compete internationally due to funding issues. Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs
Cheryl Roberts is a sport activist, publisher and writer.
Cheryl Roberts is a sport activist, publisher and writer.

CAPE TOWN – I admit that over the past 25 years of post-apartheid sport in South Africa, there have been developments to advance and improve girls and women’s participation in sport and several elite, world class and Olympic champions emerging.

But women’s participation in sport remains massively underfunded with some occasional handouts of media and support appearing now and then, here and there.

t’s always about there being "no money" to develop and grow women’s participation in sport. 

Yet, there’s money to support men’s participation, especially golf, football, cricket, and rugby. In sports federations that struggle to get sponsorship and funding, it’s always the boys and men that get the bulk of the money to support them.

Male officials of the male-dominated sports of rugby, cricket, football and golf always blame it on sponsors and corporates, saying "corporates don’t want to sponsor women’s sports."

If it’s the corporates we are blaming for strangling women’s development and advancement in sport, then why are sports federations having business relationships with corporates who refuse to sponsor and assist the very women who are consumers of their products and supporters of their businesses?

But it’s not only the men but also women, who buy products of the mobile networks that are MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Cell C. Yet these networks ignore women in sport and sportswomen.

As I ask these questions, I am reminded of the patriarchal-supporting existence of corporates who still thrive on a patriarchal, male-power, male-dominant society, who continue to prop up gender inequalities by relying on their patriarchal supporting behaviour. And this patriarchal support impacts on corporates’ funding relationships because patriarchal-supporting corporates still believe it’s the men in sport who must be dominant even though they are mediocre and male.

Why do corporates get away with their non-support of women in sport? 

It’s because the mostly male-controlled sport federations don’t speak out and women in sport haven’t organised their activism to challenge and call out corporates.

A local brewery brand announced recently that they will not renew their netball league sponsorship.  Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
A local brewery brand announced recently that they will not renew their netball league sponsorship. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Then there’s the men and few women officials who negotiate the sport sponsorships with corporates who do so from a position of both being patriarchal supporting and the sport federations always looking for a corporate to firstly back a men’s event.

It’s always about the men’s participation with the women sometimes getting a look in now and then.

South Africa’s sportswomen struggle to play at elite levels and compete as internationals. That some sportswomen have, over the past 25 years, become world class and Olympic champions is a testimony to their resilience.

It’s only when some sportswomen have achieved at the very top of world sport that some corporates react with a sponsorship relationship. But why must South Africa’s sportswomen struggle when they help grow businesses and make profits for corporates?

Women in sport, non-patriarchal supporting sports fans and sportswomen have to become activists and challenge corporates and their male-dominated sport federations to disrupt their patriarchal-supporting behaviours. 

We don't want to go another 25 years whining about the raw deal that women get in sport.

Cheryl Roberts


* Cheryl Roberts is a sport activist, publisher and writer.