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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Sponsorship is not a giveaway' - Newly elected provincial boards hunt for commercial partners

This weekend saw the election of a number of new boards that will govern the sport of athletics in various provinces across the country for the next four years. Limpopo Athletics (LIMA) will now be lead by Sammy Senwamadi from Folang Mokerong AC and his deputy Jaco Vosloo from Nylstroom HSAC, Steven Swarts and Leo Jingose emerged as the top two at the Athletics Free State (AFS) AGM on Saturday 11 November, while Paul Bester retained the presidency of Mpumalanga Athletics (AMPU). Although new, these officials elected to lead Athletics South Africa's provincial federations for the period 2024 to 2027 will face many of the same challenges as their predeccesors, chief amongst them being how to keep these volunteer organisations funded in the interest of growing the sport.

ASA Board Members Jean Verster and Enock Skosana in attendance at the AFS AGM on 11 November. Photo Credit: Free State Sports Confederation.

It is a well-documented fact that many are struggling to attract the funding needed to run the sport. For example, when athletes qualify to represent their provinces at ASA National Championship events, some end up missing out because their provinces cannot afford to send them to the competition. In September, Emmanueal Mabaso of the Nkangala Athletic Academy was forced to use social media to raise roughly R50 000 in order to pay for his athletes to travel to Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape to represent AMPU at the ASA Cross Country Championships, while in 2021 Athletics Central North West could not afford to send athletes to the ASA Senior Track and Field Championships.

But all is not lost because some of these newly minted boards have taken a step in the right direction by electing members with a strong commercial background. Last month Western Province Athletics ushered in a new leadership group with Aubrey Isaacs assigned to head up road running in the province. The chairperson of the Langa Athletic Club which boasts Tyme Bank as its headline sponsor, believes that social clubs and federations must become more deliberate in their accquisition of sponsors.

Aubrey Isaacs along 100m sprinting legend Justin Gatlin during one of his 2019 visit to South Africa. Photo Credit: Supplied.

"Running is a lifestyle and we at Langa AC were fortunate to have a sponsor right from inception in Retail Capital (later Tyme Bank). What people don't understand about sponsorship, people don't give you money because they like you. That's very important. What they do for us, we give back to them in return by giving them exposure. Make sure that the sponsor gets the biggest mileage that they can ever get. Sponsorship is not a giveaway," he explained.

Understanding this commercial imperative in order to have enough money to fund athletics development, the challenge then for these newly elected boards is how to secure exposure for any potential sponsors through their various provincial competitions. One attendee at the AFS AGM emphasized the importance of the next four years. "A lot is going to change. Please give the new board a chance and you will see changes. This was the most crucial AGM for Athletics in the Province."

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