Sports clubs considered to be high-performance appear to be given preference over smaller clubs at Wits.

SMALL clubs at Wits such as those for Frisbee and fencing have spoken out against high-performance clubs taking preference over them in 2020.

Charmain Jackson, chairperson of the Wits Frisbee Club, said “priority sports get the fields at good times, like around 5pm, whereas our practices are quite late, which probably doesn’t encourage new members much”.

In 2015 Wits Vuvuzela published an article headlined, “No more funding for recreational clubs.” It discussed the initial reason for small clubs not being funded by Wits anymore. Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib had told Wits Sport at the time to choose the sports it wanted “to be known for”.

The 2015 decision to stop funding small clubs has had an impact on small clubs in 2020. John Fourie* a former rugby player, said when it came to clubs such as fencing, “they need to raise funds for their trips and competitions on their own, due to not having funds”. An article by Wits Vuvuzela online says, “Ayanda Tuku, a fencer from the Wits Fencing Club, has been selected six times to represent the country in international competitions, but he has been unable to go due to lack of funds.”

In August 2019 Wits University published on its website the ‘Strategy for Selection of Competitive Clubs’ which classified rugby, hockey, cricket, basketball and football as high-performance clubs.

According to the strategy, “University of the Witwatersrand sports clubs are categorised (as social/recreational, competitive or high-performance clubs) based on their compliance with certain criteria”, which are explained on the Wits Sport website.

The Frisbee Club’s Jackson said, “I am not sure if we aren’t considered a high-performance sport. We could be, because we play in national tournaments and we have had SA representatives. We might also not be, because {we are not under] USSA (University Sports South Africa).”

Fourie* said, “The popularity of the sport helps out when it comes to getting external sponsorship.” He said from his perspective it is “not just a university thing; it is something that happens even at the highest level of sport”.

There is a matching system that assists small clubs with funding their tournaments. When head of sports at Wits Michael Dick was asked about the matching system, he said, “The purpose of the matching policy is simply to assist smaller clubs with their fundraising for their USSA event: in principle it is Wits Sports matching the money small clubs have raised for their USSA events. There are some terms and conditions that speak to operational issues.”

Wits high-performance clubs that have external sponsors such as Steers and FNB, for instance rugby, “Do not have the opportunity for matching of fundraisers,” said Dick.

Names have been changed*

FEATURED IMAGE:  Frisbee members during one of their practice sessions. Photo: Provided