Sport Industry Column

Big business is driving sport

2012-02-08 14:47
Ali Bacher (Gallo Images)
Ali Bacher

We're very fortunate that our corporate culture in this country is very strong in supporting sport - for sentimental reasons, for emotional reasons, but also for commercial objectives. Big companies are seeing more and more that their commercial objectives can be realised through supporting the many sporting dreams within this country.

At the same time, their support is crucial for sport to grow. We have our ups and downs, but South Africa is a very strong sporting country for all sorts of reasons - it has a wonderful climate, a strong culture and history of excellence in sport. And big business is driving sport forward further each year. That is very important, and will become more and more important, because of the unification of South Africa as a country. We've moved on from apartheid to have one united South Africa and sport will continue to play a very, very important role not only in giving prestige, honour and excellence to our country, but also with regards to nation-building and bringing together people who were so divided because of the tragic legacy of apartheid in South Africa.

Now it is becoming more and more recognised that, as professional sport is growing in leaps and bounds in South Africa, and as more and more money is ploughed into sport, so the people who contribute towards this uplift in sport need to be rewarded. That’s what the Virgin Active Sport Industry Awards are all about. This is the Oscars of South African sport and down the years the contributors in this regard will continue to look forward to this fantastic night as a reward for their achievements and their contribution to the enhancement of sport in this country.

It is an event that goes beyond individual names. Last year I was honoured to present the Johnnie Walker Lifetime Achievement Award to Sam Ramsamy, a legend of South African sport. It was a wonderful evening with a huge crowd of 1 000 people, but the importance of it was that it was the first time ever - even in a country like South Africa where we're so strong in sport and there is such a passion for it - that structures, people and organisations away from the sporting field itself were rewarded for their excellence, for their contribution and for their significance to the wellbeing of South African sport.

It's a marvellous innovation and I'm very privileged and proud to be part of the Judging Panel. I think it's so important that the broadcasters, the sponsors, the agencies, the structures and the organisations who work religiously to benefit sport, to enhance sport, to assist South Africa in becoming and remaining a great sporting nation, are rewarded. They make a tremendous contribution and thanks to these Awards and the support of Richard Branson and Virgin Active, it’s finally being recognised, and I think it's terrific. It's exciting, it's very rewarding and it's very important.

The Virgin Active Sport Industry Awards will once again be held at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg on February 23, 2012. There are only a few tables remaining - book your place now at

Ali Bacher and Elana Meyer present the Johnnie Walker Lifetime Achievement Award to Sam Ramsamy at the 2011 Virgin Active Sport Industry Awards.

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