Slow down Ek sê, Mr Min­is­ter

Mbab­ula’s plan to raise a levy on sports tick­ets has been met with mixed emo­tions from sport­ing bod­ies, most of whom are irked by the move

CityPress - - Sport - DAN RETIEF dan.retief@city­press.co.za

Sport and Recre­ation Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula has sent rip­ples of in­dig­na­tion and anx­i­ety through the com­mu­nity he rep­re­sents by threat­en­ing to raise a levy on sports tick­ets.

He did not dis­cuss the is­sue with the dif­fer­ent sports bod­ies that fall un­der his de­part­ment be­fore he pre­sented it in Par­lia­ment. What seems to irk them is his dec­la­ra­tion that the model “ad­vo­cates the es­tab­lish­ment of a new ticket levy to be im­posed on sport tick­ets”.

In his bud­get vote speech to Par­lia­ment three weeks ago, Mbalula an­nounced that his de­part­ment had “for­mu­lated a new fund­ing model to fi­nance the Na­tional Sport and Recre­ation Plan. Key to this fund­ing model is the fi­nanc­ing mech­a­nisms for school sport.”

Mbalula men­tioned ring-fenc­ing funds al­lo­cated to school sports from the Na­tional Trea­sury (to en­sure that these funds were spent on school sport) and the na­tional lot­tery. But he added a rider that has taken sports officials by sur­prise.

“This will be­come a new rev­enue stream that will gen­er­ate fund­ing for school sport devel­op­ment pro­grammes,” he said.

How­ever, it ap­pears Mbalula may have been fly­ing a kite be­cause no dis­cus­sions had taken place with sports bod­ies on what, in ef­fect, amounts to a tax on sports tick­ets.

Rugby, the sport with the most to lose as it has the big­gest crowds cou­pled to the most ex­pen­sive tick­ets, re­sponded cau­tiously. But it con­firmed it was un­aware of a scheme to di­vert a cut of gate tak­ings.

A lead­ing rugby ad­min­is­tra­tor, who re­quested anonymity for fear of prej­u­dic­ing his union, said: “This is cer­tainly a sur­prise to us all. I won­der who dreamt this up? We are al­ready strug­gling to fill sta­di­ums and any fur­ther in­crease [sug­gest­ing any levy would be passed on to fans] would be push­ing too hard.

“I don’t know who has re­searched or in­ves­ti­gated this and would wel­come any ac­cu­rate sur­vey that may guide us in this mat­ter.”

Another top rugby ad­min­is­tra­tor from a big union, who also asked not to be named, said his or­gan­i­sa­tion had not had word of a pos­si­ble levy on tick­ets.

“No mat­ter the sport, we’re all un­der se­vere fi­nan­cial pres­sure and my first ques­tion would be, ‘how do you au­dit it?’ A large part of our in­come is from the sale of suites and cor­po­rate pack­ages and we’re bat­tling to main­tain prices as it is.

“Another fac­tor is that the sports that are able to at­tract the big­gest crowds and main­tain the best sys­tems will be dis­ad­van­taged be­cause we have sound fi­nan­cials. I don’t see this fly­ing at all and find it strange that we were not con­sulted.” SA Rugby Union chief ex­ec­u­tive Jurie Roux said: “It would be un­fair to com­ment on the pro­posal un­til a plan has been for­mu­lated and cir­cu­lated to fed­er­a­tions for us to un­der­stand the de­tail. We have not had any dis­cus­sions with the min­istry on the idea, but ex­pect that to hap­pen in due course.”

Pre­mier Soc­cer League (PSL) com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Lux­olo Septem­ber agreed: “We are not aware of dis­cus­sions be­tween the league and the min­istry to this ef­fect. As the PSL, we will com­ment if and when the min­is­ter ap­proaches us about the mat­ter.”

Cricket SA (CSA) chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ha­roon Lor­gat re­sponded in the same vein: “CSA has not had the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage on this topic at all with the min­istry. “We have, how­ever, noted this propo­si­tion in the bud­get speech. We have re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to meet the min­is­ter this week and this topic is likely to be dis­cussed.

“School sport devel­op­ment pro­grammes are es­sen­tial in de­vel­op­ing world-class crick­eters and we would be will­ing to sup­port such pro­grammes. “In any case, school sports is an in­te­gral part of our devel­op­ment pro­grammes. The chal­lenge for us would be to un­der­stand the im­pli­ca­tions of the levy and to en­sure ca­pac­ity and gov­er­nance in de­liv­er­ing the re­quired in­fra­struc­ture.”

Sun­shine Tour com­mis­sioner Sel­wyn Nathan said while “it’s a process man­aged by the SA Golf As­so­ci­a­tion” the tour’s min­i­mal gate tak­ings were al­ready be­ing di­verted to the SA Golf Devel­op­ment Board and other streams of devel­op­ment. Mbab­ula could not elab­o­rate when con­tacted this week, cit­ing a busy sched­ule. His of­fice did not re­spond ei­ther, but the min­is­ter promised to avail him­self to City Press this week to dis­cuss his bud­get vote speech in de­tail.

SPORTS LEVY FI­ASCO

Fik­ile Mbalula

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