New Sascoc board faces pile of old problems

Barry Hendricks was elected Sascoc president by 70 of the 85 sports federations.
Barry Hendricks was elected Sascoc president by 70 of the 85 sports federations.
Image: Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images

The newly elected SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) board 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 in-fighting within the organisation‚ was elected on Saturday afternoon as president in a virtual vote by 70 of the 85 sports bodies making up Sascoc.

At the AGM 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 haven’t received a cent of support this year and key managerial positions within the company haven’t been filled following 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 then from resignations‚ fighting between the remnants of the executive and disgruntled sports bodies dominated the landscape.

Hendricks acknowledged the work that needed to be done‚ although he expressed confidence‚ saying there were potential sponsors 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 in on Zoom.

The controversial Sascoc Five‚ the five members of the outgoing board who had been in conflict with the bulk of the sports bodies‚ didn’t attend the election meeting.

But they signed off their reign with a letter to the membership insisting that Hendricks be probed for allegations they had charged him with.

They had also convinced Parliament’s sports portfolio committee that the elections would not be free and fair.

Hendricks said the new board would need to go to Parliament to show that the ballot had proceeded without undue drama.

The board will also have to sweet-talk government into greater funding‚ whether it comes from the department of Sports‚ Arts and Culture or through Lotto.

Sascoc also needs 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 was another priority.

Sascoc’s two vice-presidents‚ like Hendricks‚ also have previous board experience. First VP Lwandile Simelane (hockey) had served as a co-opted member before resigning earlier this year.

Second VP Debbie Alexander (triathlon) was elected in 2016‚ then resigned before returning to the board as an ex officio member after being elected as an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) representative last year.

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 senior management as a consultant before being fired last year.

The composition of the board was largely decided upon beforehand through debate and co-operation between the sports bodies‚ which are enjoying a level of co-operation not seen before.

For arguably the first time ever‚ 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’re mandated to follow‚ the chances of the membership 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. ​