Tak­ing the rich man’s game to the masses

Weekend Witness - - Sport - JONATHAN COOK Talk­ing hockey

THE three na­tional hockey tour­na­ments that have taken place in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg over the past fort­night con­cluded yes­ter­day.

The SA U16 and SA U18 Boys’ In­ter­provin­cial tour­na­ments at Mar­itzburg Col­lege’s Pape’s Astro and the A.B. Jack­son Green­fields Turf, as well as the SA Coun­try Dis­tricts’ In­ter­provin­cial Women’s Tour­na­ment at GHS’s Green­fields Turf, saw 52 teams play­ing in the KZN cap­i­tal.

Around 1 000 play­ers, man­agers, coaches, um­pires, na­tional se­lec­tors and other of­fi­cials from all over the coun­try gath­ered in PMB, bring­ing much-needed rev­enue to the city’s cof­fers and again prov­ing just how suited PMB is to host­ing events of this na­ture.

As a very con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate, bank on R200 per player/of­fi­cial per day over a pe­riod of five to six days each and you have in the re­gion of R1 mil­lion spent in the KZN cap­i­tal by play­ers and sup­port staff man­age­ment on food, travel, ac­com­mo­da­tion and so on over the past fort­night.

And then there has been — on my and oth­ers’ ob­ser­va­tions — about half the par­ents plus sib­lings watch­ing. That’s about 3 000 sup­port­ers spend­ing, at an ex­tremely con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate, around R300 per day on food, travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion, and you are look­ing at an­other cool R1 mil­lion in the city’s cof­fers.

Two mil­lion bucks over the past 10 to 12 days is a nice cash in­jec­tion into the PMB econ­omy and shows the sort of money that can be made through at­tract­ing top hockey tour­na­ments to the city.

Apart from the ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits of get­ting as many play­ers on syn­thetic turf pitches as pos­si­ble, there is a mon­e­tary ben­e­fit that can pay for these hockey pitches over time. Suf­fi­cient, that is, to be­gin to cover the costs of re­lay­ing the sur­faces come their sell-by date af­ter eight to 10 years.

The per­cep­tion that hockey is a rich per­son’s sport has value — ev­i­denced by the myr­iad dou­ble cabs, Mercs and BMWs in the car parks at the three hockey venues over the past 10 to 12 days. In South Africa at least, it is an am­a­teur sport, so play­ers gen­er­ally have to pay their own way — and with sticks re­tail­ing at R3 000 or more for some of the best — it’s not cheap.

That said, I know of no needy player who has ever been turned away due to fi­nan­cial con­straints — hockey peo­ple al­ways make a plan for the less for­tu­nate. And it is this im­per­a­tive to take hockey to the masses that must drive mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, in har­ness with hockey in­sti­tu­tions, to build more of these turfs. There is no other wayto learn the mod­ern game.

Cur­rently there are around 80 such turfs in SA with a re­place­ment value of ap­prox­i­mately R400 mil­lion that cater for the 112 000 school­child­ren who play hockey, plus the 8 000 club play­ers. Yet, the likes of North­ern and South­ern Cape, Lim­popo, East­ern Gaut­eng and Mpumalanga have just one turf be­tween them.

This has to change if hockey is to be­comeagame­forall the peo­ple.

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