Barry Hendricks. Picture: WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN/GALLO IMAGES
Barry Hendricks. Picture: WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN/GALLO IMAGES

The newly elected board of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) faces a mountain of old problems‚ from a crippling financial position to a damaged reputation.

Barry Hendricks‚ who had spent five months suspended as acting president during a tumultuous period of infighting‚ was elected on Saturday as president in a virtual vote by 70 of the 85 sports bodies making up Sascoc.

At the annual meeting in the morning the general assembly adopted Sascoc’s financial statements‚ which show that current liabilities exceed short-term assets by more than R7m.

Olympic and Paralympic athletes have not received a cent of support in 2020 and key managerial positions within the company have not been filled after resignations.

The cash-strapped body had also been plagued by controversies under the previous executive‚ with senior managers being fired amid claims of corruption and sexual harassment and a ministerial committee of inquiry probing corporate governance issues in 2018.

As the board shrunk from mandatory retirements with three members hitting the 70-year age limit‚ and from resignations‚ fighting between the remnants of the executive and disgruntled sports bodies dominated the landscape.

Hendricks acknowledged the work that needs to be done‚ though he expressed confidence‚ saying potential sponsors are waiting in the wings for the trouble to die down.

“We need to sit down with those stakeholders‚” he said after the election at the Sascoc headquarters‚ where about 70 delegates attended in the flesh and the rest joined on Zoom.

The controversial Sascoc Five‚ the five members of the outgoing board who had been in conflict with most of the sports bodies‚ did not attend the election meeting.

But they signed off their reign with a letter to the membership insisting that Hendricks be probed over allegations with which they had charged him. They had also convinced parliament’s sports portfolio committee that the elections would not be free and fair.

More funding

Hendricks said the new board has to go to parliament to show that the ballot proceeded without undue drama.

The board will also have to sweet-talk the government into more funding‚ whether from the department of sports‚ arts & culture or through the Lotto.

Sascoc has to complete the forensic audit‚ going back five years from 2018‚ that was recommended by the ministerial committee. That could uncover a few more skeletons.

Hendricks said that is another priority.

Like Hendricks Sascoc’s two vice-presidents‚ Lwandile Simelane (hockey) and Debbie Alexander (triathlon), have previous board experience.

Simelane served as a co-opted member before resigning earlier in 2020.

Alexander, elected in 2016‚ resigned before returning to the board as an ex officio member after being elected as an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) representative in 2019.

The five ordinary board members — Alan Fritz (swimming)‚ Qondisa Ngwenya (gymnastics)‚ Kim Pople (canoeing)‚ Ilhaam Groenewald (university sport) and Moekie Grobbelaar (disability sport) — are all first-timers.

Ngwenya worked for Sascoc in the senior management as a consultant before being fired in 2019.

The composition of the board was largely decided upon beforehand through debate and co-operation between the sports bodies‚ which are enjoying an unprecedented level of co-operation.

For arguably the first time‚ SA sport is being controlled from the bottom up instead of the authoritarian top-down style.

The new board will know that if they stray off the path they are mandated to follow‚ as the chances of the members retaliating are high.

And that‚ perhaps more than any other aspect‚ is driving an optimism that they can indeed steer Sascoc away from the iceberg.

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