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WHILE athletes have welcomed the renewal of the Yellow Pages' sponsorship of Athletics South Africa, they are unhappy that the winners' prize money has not been clarified.
The sponsorship will run until 2012 and ASA will receive a cool R6,5million annually.
Athletes representative Sam Mlangeni said it was an opportune time for the athletes to be paid decently for winning events in the Yellow Pages series, which marks the start of the track and field season.
An athlete got R750 for winning an event in the series in the past, while at the national championship the winner took home R2000. Mlangeni said this should change this year.
Athletes are also angered by the fact that a lucky spectator will get R5 000 during the series.
"While we are happy with the sponsorship, we are worried that prize money for the athletes was not announced or discussed," Mlangeni said. "It will be very disappointing if athletes are paid peanuts, like in previous years, in terms of the new agreement for the sponsorship.
"We want Athletics South Africa to understand that gone are the days when athletes would be given T-shirts and tracksuits for winning the races.
"Athletics is a career and we would like to see our athletes getting better prize money to support their families. We don't want them to be poor when they retire.
"Road runners in this country get more money, that is why athletes from Zimbabwe and Lesotho make a living by winning events like the Two Oceans and Comrades Marathon events.
"No wonder track athletes are so poor in this country. That is why most of our athletes go to Europe to eke out a living. We have to transform the incentives too. Athletes must benefit.
"When Ruben Ramolefi set a new 3000m steeplechase national record of 8:16:04 in Stellenbosch after 17 years, he received only R1500.
"There must also be appearance fees. But as athletes we are encouraged by the comments made by (ASA administrator) Ray Mali about the role of athletes in South Africa. It's good to be recognised for a change."
Mlangeni also appealed to the ASA interim board to work closely with athletes in preparation for the Commonwealth Games in India in October. Mali could not be reached for comment.