Note to sports of­fi­cials: Come out of hid­ing, or quit your jobs

CityPress - - Sport - Dan Retief

‘Of­fi­cious of­fi­cials’ – the term used to have a nice ring to it. But th­ese days sports ad­min­is­tra­tors are any­thing but. They may still be self-im­por­tant, but they are no longer med­dle­some, out­spo­ken or bossy in the man­ner of Ab­dul Bham­jee, Trevor “The Bri­tish Bull­dog” Phillips or Louis Luyt. In fact, th­ese days it seems the ti­tles and trap­pings are ev­ery­thing, and the cares and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties nowt.

Last week I was asked to write what the SA Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Olympic Com­mit­tee (Sas­coc) would term a “mul­ti­code” ar­ti­cle on Sports Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula’s pro­posed levy on tick­ets. The topic re­minded me how poorly sports bod­ies com­mu­ni­cate.

In my pri­mary sport of rugby, of­fice bear­ers, the CEO and oth­ers who can pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on an is­sue are shielded be­hind a well-staffed “com­mu­ni­ca­tions” depart­ment.

SA Rugby Union (Saru) Pres­i­dent Ore­gan Hoskins is never avail­able for per­sonal dis­cus­sion. CEO Jurie Roux has in­sti­tuted off-the-record brief­ings with the rugby me­dia, but hasn’t ac­cepted any in­ter­view re­quests since he took of­fice in 2010.

Saru is a pro­lific dis­sem­i­na­tor of press re­leases. Un­like the old days, how­ever, when Doc Craven an­swered his own phone, one now has to email queries and wait for care­fully con­structed replies.

On Saru’s web­site you won’t find the ex­ec­u­tives listed, what they’re re­spon­si­ble for and their con­tact de­tails, and none of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions team is there. We news­pa­per peo­ple know the way through the labyrinth, but what of the public, a sports body’s most im­por­tant con­stituency?

De­spite the fancy web­sites and highly paid com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cials, get­ting a com­ment from sports bod­ies is like try­ing to draw wa­ter from a rock.

I trawled some web­sites, and first I will say ku­dos to Mbalula. On the depart­ment of sport and re­cre­ation web­site, the min­is­ter’s own page con­tains the fol­low­ing line: “For me­dia en­quiries re­gard­ing the min­is­ter, please con­tact ...” with a name and cell num­ber.

Sas­coc has pic­tures of the board, but no in­for­ma­tion – just a gen­eral “Con­tact Us” – in­clud­ing for head hon­cho, Tubby Reddy.

Cricket SA at least lists ex­ec­u­tive and nonex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors, but gives no clue what their port­fo­lios are or how to get in touch with them. Through my con­tacts, I man­aged to talk to their com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager, but a web­site query re­mains un­ac­knowl­edged.

It’s the same for the PSL’s web­site. But if you mine it a bit, you’ll find names of the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. Still, though, there are no con­tact de­tails. Safa doesn’t even have a con­tact but­ton – cer­tainly not one that jumps out at you.

Ten­nis SA lists names and con­tact de­tails for pro­vin­cial bod­ies, but not board mem­bers. It lists some staff, but no CEO or com­mu­ni­ca­tions per­son and I’ve still to get a re­ply via Con­tact Us. So too with Swim­ming SA and the Sun­shine Tour. It’s as if th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions don’t want to be con­tacted or have some­thing to hide.

What is as­ton­ish­ing is that in this day and age, the most se­nior of­fi­cers don’t seem to re­alise they are meant to be the com­mu­ni­ca­tors, to tell the story and an­swer the ques­tions.

What is needed is for sports bod­ies to take a leaf from for­mer US pres­i­dent Harry S Tru­man and have a but­ton or icon on their web­sites say­ing: “The buck stops here” – one you can click on when you need an an­swer.

In fact, a good few other South African or­gan­i­sa­tions could do with that.

dan.retief@city­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @retief­

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