AGN Track & Field meets homeless after Tuks kick them out
Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) are homeless after the University of Pretoria kicked them out of their Bestmed Tuks Athletics Stadium because of safety concerns. The University wrote to the provincial athletics body to inform it of its decision to cancel all its track and field meetings scheduled for this month. AGN hosted its first meeting at the Bestmed Tuks Stadium on Saturday, where 23-year-old long jumper Cheswill Johnson qualified for the Olympics when he leaped 8.27m in the long jump. But now AGN is in a race against time to find another venue in time for its next league meeting at the weekend.
"TuksSport is revoking all approvals given for the AGN league meetings. In light of the AGN, league meet that was held on Saturday, 27 February 2021. TuksSport and the University of Pretoria were placed at great risk. We are therefore left with no alternative but to cancel all meetings with immediate effect. TuksSport would consider hosting meets for elite athletes to provide an opportunity to prepare for the Olympic Games and student competitions. Any other meet will not be considered until the current state of disaster is lifted," reads a letter from Garfield Theunis, who is the TuksSport facilities manager.
Garfield said it was not an easy decision to make but Tuks had no choice but to revoke their agreement with AGN. "I trust you would appreciate that this was a very difficult decision for TuksSport. However, TuksSport was placed in a very precarious position. The matter has been addressed through the university channels," added Garfield.
The regional federation situated in South Africa's capital city, usually uses the Pilditch Stadium in Pretoria West but is waiting for the City of Tshwane to officially hand the Stadium over to them after it underwent a facelift. The City of Tshwane refurbished the venue in a multi-million Rands project, but will only hand it back to AGN in an official ceremony scheduled for next month. In the meantime, AGN have to find another venue to host its competition after the University kicked them out.
AGN president John Mathane confirmed that they were kicked out of Tuks, blaming parents for what happened to them. "As everyone knows that we are facing a challenge of a pandemic we need to abide by the regulations. But we noticed that parents are not satisfied when we don't allow them in the Stadium. As the provincial event organizer we plead with parents to work with us, we will lose the right to host the event for good if they continue to act in this unacceptable manner," Mathane told #TheTopRunner.
But it's a case of too little too late as the AGN failed to control rowdy bystanders who tried to force their way into the Tuks Stadium to watch the action. "It was a nice and well-organized event on Saturday in which we had more than 600 entries but some had to drop out as we had reached our limit. As you know 250 participants were allowed and we managed to control athletes by dividing them. But we had a serious challenge caused by stubborn parents. As much as parents want to support their children, we should not ignore the fact we must comply with Covid-19 regulations. We are on lockdown and if there we don't comply then we are running a risk of losing the right to host events. Athletics Gauteng North complies with regulations so we urge everyone to do likewise," Mathane pleaded with the parents.
Mathane said he would arrange a meeting with the City of Tshwane to help AGN to get a temporary venue to host its next league meeting. "We are in a tight corner now as parents do not want to comply with the Covid-19 regulations. AGN has to pay the price as Tuks gave us the red card. The kids and athletes are going to suffer as a result of this unfortunate incident. We have to engage the City to come to our rescue or cancel our upcoming events as we do not have a venue," said Mathane.