ASA Statement Regarding the 2013 Soweto Marathon

Athletics South AfricaAthletics South Africa has taken note of a press release on behalf of a group calling themselves the Soweto Marathon Trust. In the press release the group claims to have cancelled the Soweto Marathon and made several allegations against Athletics South Africa and its president.

It must be noted that no evidence has been provided to Athletics South Africa that there is a registered trust by the name of the Soweto Marathon Trust, nor that anyone has been duly registered as trustees by the relevant authorities. Unlike events such as the Comrades Marathon Association, which is a member of KwaZulu Natal Athletics and organises a marathon by the same name, and the Two Oceans Marathon Association NPC, which is similarly an associate member of Western Province Athletics, there is no evidence available to Athletics South Africa that any grouping calling themselves the Soweto Marathon Trust is a member of any of Athletics South Africa’s affiliates. As such it cannot, in terms of the rules of the sport, organise an athletics event such as a marathon and therefore cannot cancel one.

As things stand, the Soweto Marathon has not been cancelled.

It needs to be added that all broadcast rights to athletics events in South Africa are owned by Athletics South Africa. This is enshrined in the Athletics South Africa constitution, and has been for many years, and as such all members are bound by the provision and are aware of it when they join. This is nothing new. None of the other events in South Africa have claimed broadcast rights fees. The broadcast rights fees are used for running the federation and sending teams to international competitions. There is no way that Athletics South Africa will prejudice our athletes’ rights to attend those competitions in favour of paying over money to an unregistered and unaudited group of individuals who are not accountable to the sport.

It is instructive that the grouping calling themselves the Soweto Marathon Trust has waited until very late in the day to claim they could not find a sponsor for the marathon. Even though they claim to have cancelled the race, they have not provided any evidence that they have taken any steps at all to organise the race so far, other than to demand money. It should be remembered that their spokesperson was previously employed by Athletics South Africa, at a stage when it lost several sponsors which ultimately lead to the current position. His record of acquiring and retaining sponsors is poor.

Athletics South Africa will continue to engage with all legitimate stakeholders to investigate continuing with the Soweto Marathon in 2013. Any announcements about the future of the race will accordingly come from the federation and not individuals claiming rights to the race, which they do not have.

Conduct of the South African Media

It is worth mentioning that this saga has again brought into the spotlight the poor standard of journalism in South Africa. The media made no effort to verify their sources before repeating slanderous and disgraceful allegations made in a press release by a group which is not even affiliated to Athletics South Africa.

Yet again the media repeated allegations against Athletics South Africa and its president without first verifying if they were true and providing a reasonable time period to either the federation or the president to respond before publication. It is unfortunate that Media24 and SAPA have joined Times Media in publishing allegations as if they are the truth without ever verifying the sources of their information. This is in flagrant breach of the press code and the laws against defamation.

It is unfortunate that SAPA claimed to have contacted the president of Athletics South Africa before publishing the allegations made by the group calling themselves the Soweto Marathon Trust, whereas they did not do so. Their claim that they did is a falsehood.

In addition Media24 permitted a post on its website calling for the murder of the Athletics South Africa president. This not only constitutes hate speech, but also an incitement to commit violence. How Media24 can justify using its platform for such comments beggars belief, but it does not reflect well on the organisation as a whole.

Unfortunately, because of their behaviour and failure to follow basic journalistic principles, not only now, but on previous occasions when SASCOC made unsubstantiated and unproven allegations against the federation and its office bearers which the media lapped up without question, all reports which emanate from Media24, SAPA, the SABC and/or Times Media must be treated with suspicion unless they can be independently verified.

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