The Democratic Alliance (DA) would like to see sport becoming a way out of poverty for many more young, talented future stars. However, this vision is constrained by the fact that some of our most important sporting codes are badly mismanaged.
Effective sports federations are able to provide the proper support for athletes to realize their full potential, by ensuring quality coaching and management, obtaining sponsorships, and putting meaningful development programmes in place for the next generation of competitors.
In the document we are releasing today, the DA has looked at four of the worst-performing administrators - Boxing South Africa, Swimming South Africa, the South African Football Association and Netball South Africa. We have analysed their performance and we propose some measures that could help to make them effective again.
Although there is an enormous amount of money which could potentially be available from the private sector for sport, this potential is often squandered. Arrogance, financial mismanagement, the padding of salaries and bonuses for executives at the expense of sports development, and neglect of sound management, has left many sporting codes struggling.
SAFA in particular has been beset by an almost continuous series of scandals, with the most recent being late last year, when clubs complained that despite Safa's 19 million profit in 2008 and its 18 sponsors, they were forced to are forced to fund matches almost entirely on their own.
This has left many federations struggling to hold onto sponsorships and excessively dependent on state funding for survival.
For example, despite large amounts of money that flow into boxing, BSA is currently almost entirely dependent on allocations from the Department of Sport and Recreation, after losing sponsorships from Vodacom, Old Buck and Distell worth more than R2.3 million.
These problems have had a direct effect on the pursuit of sporting excellence, and have contributed to South Africa's continuing decline in its ranking in some important sports. Out of the four sporting codes we examined, only in boxing has South Africa shown ongoing good results. Since 2002 our national soccer teams have been sliding down through FIFA rankings, and for the first time in South Africa's history, swimmers did not bring home any medals from the Olympic Games last year.
Most importantly, all of these federations have struggled to put in place comprehensive development plans. SAFA still does not have a domestic youth championship, and also did not have a technical director, who would have been mainly responsible for spearheading its development programmes, until the first week of April 2009.
NSA does not have a national championship for junior players. Up until last year, the country did not even have a major netball championship for school-aged girls.
BSA's strategy for development is solely based on the Baby Champs Tournament, an annual tournament for non-professional boxers. It has no plans to develop the sport at grassroots level.
If South Africa is to fulfil its full sporting potential, its key sporting codes need to be better managed. The government must be involved in this to some extent, because it has an interest in all the beneficial effects for South Africa that accompany success in sporting endeavours. However, it must also tread a careful line, because in a free society it is not the government's job to dictate to the country how, where and with whom its citizens may play sports.
Therefore the state's job must be to create an environment in which it is possible for the people with an interest in managing different sporting codes to do so to the best of their ability. The DA has a range of proposals in this regard.
The most important first step in restoring credibility and efficiency to these four organisations is for the government to commit itself to staying away from the direct and indirect management of sporting codes.
Of the four institutions the DA has mentioned, only Boxing SA is controlled directly by the government. The DA proposes that this body be privatised. The management of South African boxing needs to be handed over to the private sector and those people who care most about it.
At the same time the government must hold itself at an appropriate distance from the direct management of sports institutions. This means the state must not involve itself in dictating team selection criteria or any other factors pertinent to day-to-day administration, and must concern itself only with ensuring that an appropriate enabling environment exists, and that institutions act accountably.
The DA believes that the government does have a role to play in making sure that sporting codes are administered in terms of a sound, efficient and professional management structure.
This role should be to enter into discussions with each sporting code which is facing administrative breakdown and work on a rescue plan. This would involve short term measures to save them from financial collapse, as well as the development of a better structure, a meaningful business plan and a defined strategy.
Finally, development programmes are intrinsic to bringing through sports talent for the future. All sporting administrations should have meaningful, effective development programmes in place, and it must be up to the sporting codes and sponsors to ensure this.
But if South Africa is to reach its full sporting potential the government must become involved in a far more constructive way with supporting and nurturing young players.
The DA therefore proposes the establishment of a South African Sports Academy for both able-bodied and disabled sportsmen and women and build it up as a centre of sporting excellence, tasked with identifying and developing South Africa's potential heroes. The academy will be funded by the state, and report to parliament, but operate independently.
It will provide a venue for top-quality sports training facilities, send recruits out to roam the country to identify new talent, and recruit local and international coaching staff comprising the best available expertise in any particular area.
We believe these measures would help to realise the talents of many young South Africans and bring glory back to many of currently neglected sporting codes.