South African Gymnastics Federation (SAGF) CEO Anne Vermaak has written an open letter to government, joining the growing calls to address the burden currently being felt under Covid-19.
with all sectors in the South African economy, the sport sector is paying a heavy
price currently thanks to the strict lockdown measures in place in the fight
in particular provides full or part-time employment to approximately 3 500
people countrywide. More than that we provide structured physical activity
programmes for approximately 19 000 children registered at our clubs
across South Africa. If we don’t resume gymnastics activities in some form
soon, many clubs will be forced to close their doors.
are cognisant of the need to play our role in curbing the spread of Covid-19,
but we implore government to treat each sport on a case-by-case basis. For the sake of the survival of the South African sports economy, the
government should not look at sports as a homogenous sector but rather individually.
We urge government to work with us to keep our children physically active.
South African Gymnastics Federations has done its homework and produced a
detailed plan for the reopening of gymnastics across South Africa, which we
submitted to government. We feel it is essential to reopen the sport so that
hundreds of clubs have the means to survive financially.
all 350 gymnastics clubs in South Africa being self-funded, members of the
clubs pay a monthly fee to participate in various gymnastics activities. Club
owners, coaches and their families depend on clubs being able to have classes
and participate in events set up by the Federation on National, Provincial and
District level. Without members, these clubs will simply go out of business.
course, we understand and support government's measures to slow down and
prevent the spread of the virus, but our plan would minimise human interaction
and therefore minimise the spread of the virus, while also allowing gymnastics,
and healthy exercising for everyone to continue.
is posing a serious threat to gymnastics as it is to many industries in South
Africa and the world. Covid-19 however has also provided us with the
golden opportunity to be innovative and do gymnastics differently. We are
ready for “the New Normal”. We are ready to adapt all our activities to
ensure adherence to all safe practices. These include competitions, where
entrants don’t have to congregate in big crowds at tournaments in the
conventional manner, but rather submit their entries via video. We are
ready to take gymnastics to places it has never been before.
also intend to use the digital environment much more effectively. Our training
and assistance to clubs are already digital and we will extend this approach to
coaches and judges training. Furthermore, we’ve submitted very clear
guidelines as to how clubs could go back into training without compromising the
health of any gymnast.
Covid-19 measures makes sense for some sports where maintaining social
distancing is virtually impossible. In gymnastics we do not have that problem. We can easily adapt our activities and control our numbers to ensure that we
operate in a low risk environment, ensuring the safety of our athletes and
is active in all nine provinces, as well as 47 various districts with a total
of 350 clubs, 341 schools and over 19 000 registered members.
sport creates jobs and at a time when we are bracing ourselves for widespread
job losses, we are looking to save every job we can.
Vermaak is the Chief Executive Officer of the SA Gymnastics Federation. She is
a qualified physiotherapist, former international gymnast, coach and club
owner. She is a wife and proud mother of two.