South Africa - Ireland’s chief rivals in the battle to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup - will not be permitted to bid for the event, according to their Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Government officials yesterday banned its national cricket and rugby federations from hosting or bidding for international tournaments for at least a year due to their failure to increase their representation of black players.
The government has been pushing for more black players to be included in the nation’s most popular sports but more than two decades after the end of apartheid, whites still make up the bulk of players in athletics, cricket, netball and rugby.
“I have therefore resolved to revoke the privilege of Athletics South Africa (ASA), Cricket South Africa (CSA), Netball South Africa (NSA) and South African Rugby (SAR) to host and bid for major and mega international tournaments,” Minister Mbalula said in a statement.
Mbalula said the athletics and netball federations were also barred from bidding to stage global events after a report showed that four of the five biggest sports have failed to create enough opportunities for black players.
The minister’s decision, to be reviewed in a year’s time, will certainly damage the country’s hopes of hosting the Rugby World Cup in seven years time. That process is due to start in June but will not conclude until next year, by which time SA Rugby hopes to have the opportunity to pursue hosting rights reinstated.
The ban will not affect existing tournaments involving the Springboks, such as the Rugby Championship and a three-match incoming tour by Ireland in June.
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux confirmed the organisation had fallen short in its commitment to transformation, but said he was confident their ban would be lifted by next year.
“Our barometer for 2015 shows that we have achieved our target in 11 out of 13 dimensions as agreed with government,” he was quoted in a media release from SA Rugby.
“We have made further progress on and off the field in 2016 to date and over the coming months our commitment to transformation will become even more evident.”
SA Rugby appointed Allister Coetzee, the country’s second black coach, to lead the Springboks to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The country’s athletics and cricket federations both told Reuters they would study the report more closely before making comment.
South Africa is scheduled to host the 2020 Cricket Under-19 World Cup. The country has seen greater participation among black players across most sports at junior level despite the challenge of providing adequate school facilities in poorer districts.
But there is a growing frustration in the African National Congress (ANC) government that some senior national teams have not reflected this trend.
The soccer federation was the only one of the five to meet its transformation targets, Mbalula said.
He added that he would review the decision when considering the results on the 2016-17 “Transformation Barometer”.
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