By John Dube
It's a well known fact amongst the hockey public that the South African men's senior national hockey team is in permanent dire straits financially.
A brief look at the men's team funding structures revealed that Mr Price Sport sponsors the teams playing kit and clothing requirements. Mugg & Bean (part of Famous Brands) came in with a vital cash sponsorship as a passionate associate sponsor and the reaction from the hockey public and flourish of support for Mugg &Bean has been truly incredible. The tweets by SA hockey fans physically showing via photo's they support Mugg & Bean because M&B supports the SA men's team said it all.
Looking ahead to Rio 2016 Olympics just 2years away, the team is still without a full long term title sponsor and with overseas tours costing between R800,000 and R1million, any money goes out faster than it comes in. The recent Rabobank FIH World Cup campaign would have cost close to R1mil (including preparation) with crucial world ranking points on offer. Not attending this tournament would have seen the SA men's team drop well outside the top 12 in the world rankings and a Commonwealth Games ticket could not have been justified to SASCOC.
SASCOC / Lotto / Dept of Sport
SASCOC won't help with funding outside of Olympics and Commonwealth Games events (although they do pay for those both in full). I could not get any information on funding received from the Department of Sports at the time of completing this article but presumably there is not much coming the teams way from the Minister. SA Hockey Association (SAHA) has not received Lotto funding for the team since the 2012 Olympics (as I understand it their application has been submitted but they are still waiting to hear back).
The World Cup campaign was saved at the last minute by two sponsors being SuperSport TV and DLA Piper the law firm which operates as DLA Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr in South Africa. SuperSport screened all 76matches live which was incredible and a major boost as some sport-lovers reported having enjoyed the hockey a lot more than the much slower 90min WC soccer matches. Without these two sponsors the players might have been asked to each personally contribute to their own World Cup campaign. Yes, they would have to pay for themselves!
The SA sports-loving public expects the SA hockey team to perform on the same level as the Springboks and Proteas. Can you imagine a national cricket or rugby player being asked to contribute to go on tour? Shocking is an understatement but "The Lads" as they are affectionately known, are hugely thankful to those corporate sponsors for saving the day. Also remember none of the players are paid to play as hockey is still an amateur sport. The hockey players face a harsh reality that to represent SA they are expected to perform to the same level of results the SA sports-loving public expect while they struggle to hold down full / part time jobs or study and also put in the hours of training required to perform on the world stage. Simply put, playing for the SA men's hockey team costs the players money. However this has never held the team back and they have been careful not to use finances as an excuse or "crutch" on which to blame poor performances.
With hamstrung finances, the team is not able to accept all invitations to tour overseas and gain valuable test match experience against the world's best in order to perform at major events. The team was forced to withdraw from the recent FIH Champions Challenge event which was for valuable world ranking points as they didn't have the funding available. Unfortunate as it would have been a great event to prepare for the upcoming World Cup and Commonwealth Games.
However an in depth analysis of the teams finances was not the focus of my investigative journalism. A recent success story that revealed a part solution to the teams need to play regular test matches without it costing an arm and a leg.
The German senior men's national team (2008 and 2012 Gold Olympic medallists) have come out to Cape Town two years in a row. First in early 2013 post the Olympics for a training camp and it was a very low-key affair. They were re-building and didn't want any test matches or fanfare. March 2014 was a different story with the Germans requesting some games versus the SA men's team. With absolutely no money left in the team’s budget and a World Cup looming (at the time still unfunded), it looked as if the team would not be able to take the Germans up on their kind request. Truly a sad state of affairs for the administrators, the team and local hockey fans. What player doesn't want to play in front of a packed 2000 spectator crowd? Isn't it imperative to play home test matches to market the game locally giving junior players a live glimpse of their SA hockey heroes and to show sponsors the sport of hockey is very healthy with a base of over 120,000 junior players? Sadly it was only after a whopping 70caps that Austin Smith the current SA men's hockey captain played his first test in front of his home crowd at Hartleyvale International Stadium versus Great Britain in February 2012.
The Success Story
This was the recent successful SA versus Germany 3-test series in March 2014 hosted by Western Province Hockey Union (WPHU) at Hartleyvale International Hockey Stadium in Cape Town. SAHA unable to fund the series asked the WPHU to assist and that was all they needed to do. WPHU has a small group of committed administrators (all volunteers) that sit on their Executive Board with these same people forming the local organising committee for major events. WPHU led by President Feico Mulder run a tight operation and are considered financially healthy (not wealthy). WPHU agreed to financially bank-roll the series and put a budget in place based on estimates at best. The series income relied heavily on gate takings (which were committed to the SA men's team entirely even though WPHU had full rights to the revenue as host). Ticket prices were a mere R40 for adults and R10 for scholars with discounted series and family tickets available. WPHU also arranged with newly appointed head coach Fabian Gregory and the team to run a skills clinic for the local junior players which generated further income. With no time to get any sponsors on board at such short notice, WPHU gave the go ahead for the series and what happened is outlined in the rough budget below.
Actual Budget Figures from the SA vs. Germany Series (men's)
Gate takings (5, 7, 8 March) R51,020 (all gate takings allocated SA team by WPHU)
SA men's coaching clinic R22,200
Germany astro hire, ice baths &water R21,280 (common for teams to be charged for these items)
Vendor rental R300
Refreshment sales R5,535
TOTAL INCOME R100,335
SA team costs (not normally covered by a host Province)
SA men team playing kit R0 (sponsored by Mr Price Sport)
SA men team accommodation R0 (sponsored by SAHA via Tsogo Sun sponsorship)
SA men team flights R30,228
SA men team meals R19,855
SA men team drinks R1,000
SA men team staff wages R33,060 (includes coach, trainers, physio, video analyst. They are paid per day they work and do not have permanent contracts)
SA men team transport R1,300
SA men team ice baths R1,300
SA men team medical expenses R1,260
Waste removal R570
Stadium cleaning R720
Staff R5,521 (security, car guards, gate keepers, runners, groundsman over weekend for 3tests)
Astro hire R0 (sponsored by WPHU)
Local organising committee costs R1,950 (transport, food, cellphone) - note the LOC is run by WPHU volunteers
TOTAL EXPENSES R96,764
SURPLUS R3,570 (some of this surplus will
(some of this surplus will be used to reimburse petrol costs as the local players used their own vehicles and cover the cost of the astro turf WPHU pays the City Council)
All in all the series was a major success. Although the results didn't go the SA teams way, hockey fans packed into Hartleyvale Hockey Stadium to watch three quality hockey test matches. The SA men's team had a week long training camp with an extended squad of 30 players and some new players were blooded getting their first test caps on home soil. (Editors note: CongratsDaniel Sibbald who scored on debut for SA!) From a financial perspective the series turned a tiny surplus. Credit must go to WPHU who as a provincial hockey union was prepared to accept a calculated financial risk and then generate enough income to fund the series expenses both for the SA men's team and for hosting the matches. The only expense not covered by WPHU was the teams accommodation kindly sponsored by Tsogo Sun through SAHA. A truly remarkable success story of what can be achieved on a shoe-string budget by a few committed administrators. As they say, hockey was the winner.
Final thought: If hockey fans were prepared to pay R100 per ticket (as opposed to only R10 - R40 normally) to watch the SA men's team play against world class opposition and 2000 tickets were pre-sold (seats allocated in stadium) this would generate R200,000 income. SAHA and WPHU could then host many more home test matches without taking any financial risks and secure top class opposition well in advance.