South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has formally suspended that country’s rugby, cricket, netball, and athletics associations from bidding for international tournaments because they are too white.
Making the announcement this week, Mbalula said those organizations had “failed to transform”—that is, they had not attracted enough black players.
Fikile Mbalula, South African Minister of of Sport.
“I have resolved to revoke the privilege of Athletics South Africa (ASA), Cricket South Africa (CSA), Netball South Africa (NSA), and South African Rugby (SARU) to host and bid for major and mega international tournaments in the Republic of South Africa as a consequence of the aforementioned federations, not meeting their own set transformation targets with immediate effect,” Mbalula said.
He said the South African Football Association (SAFA) had met its target—unsurprisingly, as that sport has always been a black-dominated recreation in South Africa.
However, Mbalula criticized SAFA for not being popular among the handful of majority non-black schools remaining in South Africa. These schools—a combination of private institutions and what were called “model C” schools, have shown little interest in playing soccer.
“In respect of the South African Football Association, I will issue a ministerial directive as a consequence of their poor drive to penetrate and roll out football in former Model C schools and private schools,” said Mbalula.
He said that his move was “morally the right thing to do” because of South Africa’s Apartheid past, and, he added, because 84 percent of the country’s under 18-year-old population was black.
A plan has been put in place to “increase the representation of black players” in South African teams, with a government appointed committee assigned to report progress.
Sporting federations in South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding last May, which included a five-year plan and commitment to “make changes.”
The crux of the agreement included a prerequisite for 60 percent of international players to be black.
However, not due to any fault of the sports associations themselves, only a tiny number of blacks have signed up to play any of the sports, making it impossible to meet the 60 percent quota.
The effect of Mbalula’s decree will mean that none of the listed associations will be able to host any sort of international tournament.
Rugby—traditionally an Afrikaner-dominated sport—will be the most adversely affected, as South Africa will now be unable to bid to host the 2023 World Cup.
The South African national rugby team during the 2015 World Cup held in Twickenham, England.