Cinderella sports face ruin if new cost-cutting rules by the National Lotteries Commission are imposed‚ top SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) officials warn.
Rowing‚ swimming‚ athletics and triathlon — which produced nine of the country’s 10 medals at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games — are all at risk.
The Lotto has introduced two hammer blows in its latest regulations. One is a cooling-off period that will prevent organisations from applying for a year after a successful application. The other is downgrading Sascoc‚ the umbrella body responsible for sending teams to multisport events‚ to the status of national federation.
That means grants to Sascoc would be capped at R5m for an effective two-year period — a huge cut from recent allocations that have topped R100m a year.
As it is‚ national federations would get R5m every two years instead of every 12 months.
Sascoc president Gideon Sam said on Tuesday he had already been in talks with the commission and would engage new Sport Minister Thulas Nxesi after his budget speech to Parliament later in May.
"We agreed it would not be in the interests of South African sport‚ let alone Sascoc‚" said Sam. "I am confident [we can change their minds]‚ otherwise we don’t have sport."
A lack of funds had already meant cutting the size of the team for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas in July‚ Sam added.
His CEO‚ Tubby Reddy‚ said Sascoc could be out of business in less than 12 months.
"We can keep our doors open until the end of the financial year‚ which is next year March.
"We have some resources of our own. Lotto money rolled over‚ we get a grant from the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and shares from Phumelela.
"There’s no point in being open. If you can’t deliver teams‚ there’s no point."
The biggest casualties would be Olympic and Paralympic athletes who receive Sascoc’s Operation Excellence funding‚ which totalled tens of millions of rand in the build-up to the London 2012 and Rio Olympics.
Star swimmers Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh were given more than R3m combined since 2009.
The fund benefited sprinter Anaso Jobodwana‚ the 200m world championship bronze medallist in 2015‚ during his rehabilitation from two serious injuries in 2014 and 2016.
The programme is also the lifeblood of the successful rowing squad‚ a consistent source of Olympic and world championship silverware.
"We are 70%-reliant on Sascoc for everything‚" said Roger Barrow‚ World Rowing’s coach of 2016.
Sascoc’s annual salary bill stands at more than R14m‚ but Reddy said this was necessary.
The commission did not respond to questions on Tuesday.