The civil rights organisation AfriForum today learned that Athletics South Africa (ASA) will allow athletes aged eight and older to compete at the annual ASA Cross Country Championships. This follows after the organisation wrote an urgent letter to ASA on 3 September after ASA on that day issued a notice that individuals between the ages of 17 and 49 will be allowed to compete at this year’s Cross Country Championships based on the medical advice ASA had obtained. ASA made an adjustment after this letter and indicated via a public letter that athletes between 14 and 49 years may participate in the championships. AfriForum sent a follow-up letter to ASA requesting that all age groups from eight to 49 years be allowed to compete because there is no rational reason why these age groups should be excluded.
According to Ronald Peters, manager of Sport at AfriForum, this decision would not only have had an enormous financial impact for the parents and participants, but more importantly it would have deprived individuals and specifically children of the opportunity to put their hard work through the year to the test, and to gain recognition for their perseverance in this difficult time. “It is well known that sport has a huge impact on the overall well-being of individuals and especially children. We cannot allow irrational decisions made by persons in positions of authority to adversely affect opportunities like this.
Peters further mentions that they took note of the fact that ASA did not follow the right processes to be able to make this decision, as contained in their constitution. “The majority of the council was not approached for input and this was the first step that should have been followed to be able to make a decision that carries so much weight.”
Daniel Eloff, director of Hurter Spies Inc., says that the initial decision by ASA was blatantly irrational. “The risk of spreading COVID-19 is particularly low in Cross Country and much lower in the case of heathy children. It is especially important that all irrational decisions are strongly opposed. South Africa expects rational decision-making from our sport bodies and it is therefor encouraging that ASA reacted positively after our letter on behalf of AfriForum.”
AfriForum regards this urgent turnaround of ASA’s decision as a success and trusts that their support in this case will give hope to many people.