Soweto Marathon off again as battle looms

A LEGAL battle is looming between Athletics South Africa and the SABC after this year's Soweto Marathon was cancelled again yesterday.

The two parties signed a broadcast sponsorship deal worth R10- million earlier this year, which included live coverage of the event that was to be delivered by ASA.

The iconic marathon was scheduled for November 3 but the task team appointed to save the event decided to cancel it after their meeting yesterday.

The task team was appointed by Gauteng sports, arts, culture and recreation MEC Lebogang Maile, who wanted to see the marathon being run in a more professional manner.

The task team consisted of members from the Gauteng provincial government, the City of Johannesburg, Central Gauteng Athletics, Gauteng Sport Council and Soweto Sport Council.

It is the second time the event has been cancelled after the Soweto Marathon Trust issued a media release last month, arguing they could not get sponsorship.

In a statement released by the Gauteng provincial government yesterday, the task team blamed ASA for a lack of cooperation and finally forcing them to cancel the race again.

The statement warned that it would be impossible to prepare for a big race of this magnitude within a two-week period.

The task team members raised R800000 of the requisite budget, but there is still a R1-million shortfall.

"It is heartbreaking to see the Soweto Marathon, facing such serious challenges," said Maile yesterday, while offering their full support for next year's event.

ASA president James Evans denied yesterday that his federation did not cooperate with the task team.

"I don't know why they are dragging us into the mud. I have been trying to get hold of Ivor Hoff [chief director for sports] for the past two weeks, he is not even returning my calls.

"As for the SABC, I have also been trying to get hold of [SABC sports head] Sizwe Nzimande regarding the coverage of the marathon, he is not taking my calls."

SABC group communications manager Kaizer Kganyago said: "It's news to me, we have not been informed about the cancellation of the Soweto Marathon.

"We will wait for ASA to come to us because we have a contract with them for the coverage of the Soweto Marathon."