Lloyd Burnard

Cosatu has a point, but the delivery is farcical

2017-10-04 10:45
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - It's been a while, but SA Rugby is having to deal with another threat by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to cause a scene on a Springbok match-day.

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This happened in 2015 as well, when then-Bok coach Heyneke Meyer was under attack for his perceived questionable treatment of players of colour.

As it turns out, there was no match-day protest back then.

Hopefully, after discussions with SA Rugby take place on Thursday, there will be no match-day protest on Saturday either.

With Newlands expected to be packed and with the small matter of a 2023 Rugby World Cup bid pending, it is the last thing South African rugby needs. 

The issue that Cosatu has, however, is extremely pertinent, and it certainly deserves attention. 

The trade union is challenging SA Rugby and SuperSport, demanding that Springbok Tests should be available to everybody and be broadcast free-to-air on SABC. 

As it stands, only those who have subscriptions to DSTV and SuperSport can watch Springbok matches live. It has been that way since forever, but that doesn't make it right. 

SA Rugby, and South African sport in general, is under pressure to facilitate transformation and unearthing a pool of promising, young black talent is crucial. 

It would make sense, then, that the whole country be allowed to support the Springboks, and all of our major sporting teams, regardless of their economic situation. 

The majority of young, black sports fans currently have no exposure to Springbok rugby unless they are fortunate enough to have access to a DSTV subscription.

It is not only rugby where this is an issue. 

When the Proteas play away from home, they are also not televised on SABC while Bafana Bafana have had their own well-documented troubles when it comes to getting their matches on the public broadcaster. 

In a perfect world, all of our major sporting codes would be available to everybody. 

But the SABC, unfortunately, has problems that make it far from perfect and the reality is that broadcast deals are designed to make money. 

Cricket South Africa, SA Rugby, the PSL, SAFA, SANZAAR ... they all benefit from their relationships with SuperSport. 

And they do that because SuperSport has money to spend. SuperSport buys the rights and has the monopoly, the sporting body benefits from a cash injection and everybody wins. 

SABC, simply, isn't in the ballpark. 

When one looks at their financial problems, it is easy to see why. 

But that doesn't mean that Cosatu's concerns are not valid. Springbok rugby ideally needs to be on SABC, and all parties concerned should be engaging in discourse to make that happen. 

But there is a difference between constructive discourse and shooting from the hip.

Cosatu's claims that former Springbok coach Nick Mallett is racist and must be sacked from SuperSport are outrageous. 

Mallett is one of the most respected voices in world rugby and he has never given any indication in his analysis of the game that race has ever played a role in forming his opinions. 

To make that connection is unethical, irresponsible, childish and frankly pathetic. 

By going down that route, Cosatu has taken a very serious issue that should be a conversation among all of rugby's stakeholders, and turned it into a joke. 

You can't just call somebody out for being racist without anything to back it up. 

It is disappointing, because a lot of people would have been listening to what Cosatu was saying up until that point. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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