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Corporate Support For Sport

Sport can help to create a winning nation, and corporate investment could well be the key ingredient for such success. Mwangi Githahu reports.
Image: Cyclist - Tiffany Keep Image: Cyclist - Tiffany Keep

Sports are central to the school experience for many children, and the benefits have been shown to extend far beyond the playing fields.

The Foundation for Global Sports Development reports that school-based sports programmes can bring out noticeable positive reactions and behaviours in teens. Numerous studies indicate that involvement in sport adds value to learners, helping in character development, social skills and with self-confidence. The promotion of sport across all sectors of the community is seen as not just ensuring transformation and inclusivity, but creating employment opportunities as well.

In the words of Nelson Mandela: “Sport has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”

However, to build a dynamic sporting culture takes more than just a love of sport. Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) is the national government department responsible for sport in South Africa. Aligned with its vision of creating “an active and winning nation”, its primary focuses are providing opportunities for all South Africans to participate in sport. However, SRSA does not fund individual athletes, nor does it provide sponsorships or bursaries.

This is where donors and supporters with deep pockets come in, as they can invest in youth sport and local clubs, and also encourage others to donate money and time. Such corporate support is an integral part of growing the sector. Corporate assistance for school sport and local clubs can take many shapes, from the provision of coaching, trainers, material resources or post-practice meals to tournament sponsorships.

Case study: Spur Schools Mountain Bike League

Clare Rainey, brand development manager for the Spur Group, explains that Spur is involved in over 400 events annually across South Africa, with the majority being school sporting events. “It is important for us to give back to the community and focusing on fun sports is part of our overall strategy to keep families active,” she says. “The Spur Schools Mountain Bike League (SSMTBL) is a prime example of this strategy: It is a series that encourages children to lead a healthy, active lifestyle within a school team environment.

“We invest millions of rand in school sport, that percentage of our budget allocation is substantial and we are confident our investment decision is making a meaningful impact on the lives of thousands of kids.”

The Spur Schools MTB League introduces learners to cycling and encourages South African schools  to adopt mountain biking as an official team sport. With these simple objectives, the SSMTBL has built a strong cross-country racing format (12 000 annual participants), with four events taking place in each province between May and September. Schools are encouraged to enter as many riders as possible to earn points, which are allocated according to the riders’ finishing positions in each race. The primary and high schools finishing top of the points log at the end of each season are awarded their region’s school champion floating trophy.

An inter-school final wraps up the high schools’ season in October and all the schools strive to qualify for this prestigious event. Approximately 400 riders representing 60 schools from different regions compete in the final in Magaliesburg. Not only school pride is at stake: R10 000 in prize money goes to each school that wins an age category, to be used for educational advancement.

Tiffany Keep is a Grade 11 pupil at Thomas More College in Durban and a keen mountain biking enthusiast. “My first, most vivid sports memory would have to be my dad teaching me how to ride my bike properly for the first time without trainer wheels at the age of three. It took a few attempts to get it right, but it was those moments of joy when I achieved the feat that really sparked my love for cycling.”

Her achievements are no mean feat. She says her most prestigious accomplishment yet was winning in her age category at the SSMTBL inter-schools final in 2016 – she’s hoping to qualify for this year’s final as well. She has also represented her province for the past three years and was recently crowned the South African junior cross-country Olympic (XCO) champion.

Case study: Investec Soccer League

Investec Bank is an international specialist banking and asset management group. In its promotional literature, Investec says of itself, “The desire to make a meaningful contribution to the world we live in is at the heart of our values at Investec. Making an unselfish contribution to society, nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit, embracing diversity, and respecting others, underpin our aim to be a responsible corporate citizen.”

One of the bank’s “meaningful contributions” is its sponsorship of the Investec Soccer League (since 2008) through its Corporate Social Investment (CSI) spend. The programme, which is endorsed by the Gauteng Department of Education, sponsors 20 high schools in Soweto and benefits 360 learners from Grade 8 to Grade 12 under the age of 21.

The participating schools are also involved in Investec’s CSI flagship Promaths programme, which provides additional tuition in mathematics and science for pupils in Grades 10 to 12. This creates a platform for developing high-calibre future professionals and leaders who will become active economic participants in society.

Setlogane Manchidi, head of CSI at Investec, says the bank was driven to sponsoring school sport with its CSI spend as a result of its chosen focus areas of education and entrepreneurship. “We realised that there are plenty of young learners with talent and passion for sport and the need for life skills that will assist them to become well-rounded individuals and active economic participants through a different vehicle. The soccer league falls within the 10% [CSI] allocation that goes towards philanthropic initiatives.”

Thulani Secondary School in Dobsonville, Soweto is one of the beneficiaries. They recently won the league for the second year running after beating Lamula Secondary 1-0.

Player of the tournament, Sifiso Sithole, a Grade 10 learner, spoke to us about the  tournament and how he came to be involved in football. Sithole, who has ambitions to study sports science once he finishes high school, says, “I have a great passion for sports and that is the only thing I believe I can do really well in. My first memories of soccer come from back in the days when I used to force my dad to buy me soccer balls and pass the ball around with me when we were home.”

He grew up with a love for the game in a neighbourhood where soccer was the main sporting activity for young boys. He says that the football fields were “the only available ‘facilities’ in our neighbourhood – so it was easier for people to fall in love with soccer”.

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