My, how you have grown

Andy Scott is Chief Operating Officer of The Sports Trust. Here he takes us on a journey along the development of sports bodies for the disabled.

It is with a great sense of pride and passion that I watch sport for athletes with physical disabilities in South Africa finally coming of age and finding their “places in the sun” - after all we are referred to as “Sunny South Africa.”

I remember driving back from a South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD) meeting held in Bloemfontein in 1993 with then President, Peter Goldhawk where all were a bit down due to a severe lack of funding. It seemed at the time that the movement might collapse in its thirtieth year of existence. We brainstormed the issues over that four-hour journey and I remain convinced that the energy that flowed contributed to where the movement is today.

I had always believed that sport for the disabled needed to shake the “cap in hand” approach and get serious about their business. Donations had to be converted to long-term sponsorships. This meant professionalism as sponsorships call for management and relationships; they imply a “give and take” from both parties as opposed to a “you give, we take” approach from the beneficiary. Managing sponsorships is hard work.

We formulated an ambitious five-year plan and were able to sell the association’s credibility on its fine history. Headquarters were set up in Johannesburg, an administration trust was formed and the result is there for all to see.

With time there is always a change

SASAPD was a pioneer of the National Paralympic Committee of South Africa (NAPCOSA) that was formed during 1994 at the request of the International Paralympic Committee now based in Bonn, Germany. At the end of 2000 and for all the right reasons, NAPCOSA was dissolved and Disability Sport South Africa (DISSA), a section 21 Company, was born. It became an umbrella body if you like, being the recognised mouthpiece and delivery system of elite athletes to Paralympic, Deaflympic and International games for the Intellectually Impaired.

The Paralympic Team was the most marketable attracting sponsorships from corporate giants such as DaimlerChrysler, Nedbank, Nike, Pick ‘n Pay, SAA, Sun International, Telkom, Vodacom and Dimension Data. Sport and Recreation too raised the bar in terms of their sup port. All of this was complemented by the National Lotteries Board that despite what many say, do a pretty fair job!

Yup, you guessed it. DISSA has run its path and will now be absorbed into the newly formed South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), which is set to become the supreme non-government macro sports body in South Africa. This body absorbs all macro sports bodies including the National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA), the Commonwealth Games Federation of SA and DISSA to name a few. All will merge and be housed at the newly revamped NOCSA house in Johannesburg for the time being.

Spare a thought for those who at one stage were being left behind in all this turmoil. SASAPD were certainly a victim of identity crisis in that both NAPCOSA and more so DISSA took the kudos for the brilliant results of the paralympic teams. Only internally were the likes of SASAPD, who nurtured and identified most of the Paralympians, given credit and recognition.

The state of sport in South Africa has been in turmoil for some time, so hopefully SASCOC can bring some much needed sanity and unity to the fore. Once settled, certainly much duplication will be avoided. SASCOC must work with the federations who are key to their success; one of these will be SASAPD, which will hopefully once again find their place in the sun.

In keeping with the amazing progress made by the various bodies catering for the disabled, wheelchair basketball will soon be administered autonomously of SASAPD. WBSA is set to become a Section 21 company and will administer all aspects of this wonderful game. Pay channel Supersport has renewed their vows and pledged their commitment for at least another three years. This will help WBSA immensely though the time to get serious in terms of marketing and planning has arrived. We wish them well and will watch closely as they strive to provide SASCOC with a winning combination that will see South Africa win the Afro-Arab Paralympic qualifiers in 2007 thus opening the gateway to Beijing in 2008.

Talking Beijing 2008, an official supporters’ club will be announced later this year. Watch this space.

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