Lotto twists knife into athletes: Commission won’t fund sporting activities outside SA

A sportsman casts a shadow on a race track while training. Image by: EDUARD KORNIYENKO / REUTERS
The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) yesterday moved to calm fears over sports funding but, instead, it created more consternation as it revealed a new policy that will hurt athletes.

International experience is critical for most athletes wanting to improve, whether they are elite or even age-group competitors.

The commission was reacting to The Times’ story yesterday quoting SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) officials as saying local sport was in peril because of two new regulations.

One was a 12-month cooling-off period between grants, and the other was the downgrading of Sascoc to a national federation.

The commission denied Sascoc had been downgraded. But CEO Tubby Reddy insisted this was what he was told by NLC officials.

The commission explained the cooling-off period would not delay new grants because these would be processed within 150 days.

“Sascoc has received over R300-million from the NLC since the inception of lottery funding in 2000,” the commission said.

“The most recent grant of R70-million was paid in June 2016 and has to be reported on satisfactorily before any new funding can be considered … The cooling-off period ends in June 2017 … Any concern of Sascoc is, therefore, unwarranted and premature.”

The new regulation about not funding international endeavours took administrators by surprise, with Reddy and Swimming SA president Alan Fritz saying this was the first they had heard of it.

Both said they would need to engage the NLC for clarity.

Asked if this would even include the national rowing squad’s high-altitude training camps at Katse Dam in Lesotho, NLC official Sershan Naidoo replied: “In the true sense of the definition, yes.”

Reddy confirmed that a significant chunk of Sascoc’s Operation Excellence funding went to athletes competing and training abroad.

“What exactly will we support because athlete preparation depends on international participation?” said Reddy.

With many swimmers already having to self-fund a portion of their trips to competitions abroad, Fritz said he was concerned.

DAVID ISAACSON

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