SAHA Statement Re: Olympic Games

The South African Hockey Association has with regret received the news that the South African Hockey national teams will not be permitted to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as per the letter received from SASCOC today.  The SA National hockey teams both qualified earlier this month for the Olympic Games after being crowned the African champions at the Greenfields African Hockey Championships that took place in Randburg, Johannesburg.  Both teams having met the qualification criteria as set out by the International Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee had not met SASCOC’s preferred qualification route.

SASCOC had taken a hard line with SA Hockey and insisted that the national hockey team qualify via the Hockey World League Round 3 event and would not consider the additional option available to the team of qualifying via the continental competition.  In all discussions SA Hockey continuously presented the argument that the criteria proposed was unachievable due to a number of factors, and that the criteria in fact would be an automatic exclusion of the two national hockey teams should the criteria remain.  The final set criteria presented for signatory remained unchanged in spite of the contestations made by SA Hockey and remained non-negotiable.

SA Hockey signed this agreement as a ‘fait accompli’.  It remains our view that whether we signed the agreement or not the terms remained in force as the National Olympic Committee of every
country has the final say when entering athletes for the Olympic Games.  We note the growing impatience and frustration amongst the hockey community around why the qualification criteria discussion took place so late and note that some of this timing was out of our hands.

We further acknowledge that up until the conclusion of the African Championships there was no qualification at all to speak of, as SA had not as yet met any elements of the FIH/IOC qualification criteria.  The decision taken by SASCOC is crippling and will have long lasting negative ramifications for the sport of hockey, the decision taken is by no measure in the interest of the sport.  We whole heartedly apologise to the hockey community for failing to ensure that the SA Hockey teams remain on SA’s Olympic campaign.

We would like to thank our athletes who have gone beyond the call of duty to represent South Africa, they have given their best in trying times, they have contributed financially, time and time again to represent our great nation, and they have taken many hours off work and their studies to fulfil their dreams and aspirations of representing South Africa.  We are proud of every effort made and every success gained over the years, it is because of these very sacrifices, that South Africa has remained in the top 15 nations in World Hockey.  In the interest of transparency to the hockey community we have decided to share a copy of the contents of a letter sent to SASCOC when requesting them to review the decision pertaining to hockey.

Please see below the arguments put to SASCOC for consideration at their 18 November Board Meeting.  In spite of the facts, SASCOC has opted to stick to the agreement that was signed, we have opted to “demystify’’ the said agreement.  SA Hockey will now explore any other possible avenues that may be available to us to further advance the possibility of entry for the Rio Olympic Games.

======================================================================================================================================

Mr Tubby Reddy
  17 November 2015
CEO: SASCOC

Dear Tubby,

RE: SA Hockey Olympic Qualification Criteria

We would like to appeal to the SASCOC Executive Board to review the qualification criteria for SA Hockey.  We would appreciate due consideration to this request as a matter of urgency.  

It is imperative to highlight that as SAHA we reiterate that the criteria set is an automatic exclusion of hockey in SASCOC’s 2016 Olympic campaign.  We have contested this in the criteria discussions and subsequent requests for meetings prior to us signing the agreement.  It is our view that signing the agreement was a mere formality and that refusal to sign would have put SAHA in a position of conflict and disagreement with SASCOC even before any qualification process had started, this being counter-productive to the objectives of SAHA and SASCOC to work together for the good of Hockey and South African sport as a whole.  Our contributions to the discussions as per the criteria positioned to us on 04 December 2014, were not in our opinion considered.  The final criteria presented to us on 23 March (stating qualification via World League top 3 finish) and subsequent correction on 13 June (stating qualification “directly” through World League) continued to ignore SA Hockey’s input in the said criteria negotiation.

We must also categorically state that it is our view that the criteria was in fact not even negotiable.  The agreement presented to SA Hockey was in fact a final decision and this is clearly demonstrated in all correspondence between the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and the office of the SASCOC CEO.  All such correspondence from March to June advising the FIH of SASCOC’s criteria was all prior to SA Hockey signing the agreement.  The intention of SASCOC to not negotiate the criteria was clear and in good faith it is also correct to say that whether we signed the agreement or not, it was merely a formality and in fact has turned out to be a mistake on our part as we simply accepted the ‘fait accompli’.  It is our view that had the agreement not been signed it did not matter as the terms of the agreement were already in force and advised to our principals already 3 months prior to any signatures.

We respectfully request the SASCOC Board in considering this letter to set aside the stance that SA Hockey must stand behind the terms of the agreement duly signed by both presidents of SASCOC and SAHA.  We request that the board review the decision around the hockey teams attending the Rio Olympic Games.

The SA Men and SA Womens hockey teams have both won their respective Africa Olympic qualifying events.  They have both met the FIH/IOC set criteria and as such have qualified for the Rio games.  The decision on whether to include hockey in TEAM SA is now in your hands, it should be a decision taken in the best interest of the sport as a whole bearing in mind that the decision will have a bearing not only on the final 32 athletes selected but a bearing on the entire code and it’s international rankings.

The ramifications of not going to the Olympics for the code are too grave to ignore.  Whilst there has been an ongoing discussion about the true value of ranking points and as an indicator for consideration for qualification in various events nothing has transpired in this regard.  For hockey world ranking points remain critical to assessing where we are within world hockey and most importantly where they compete ultimately.

SA Hockey has already limited opportunities of accumulating ranking points to help facilitate:

1) Current world standing
2) Current competition structure
3) The possibility of breaking into the top 10 of world hockey and
4) Promoting of athletes playing in top international club leagues.

The FIH competition structure accommodates our teams based on current rankings and performance in the following events:

? Olympic Games – up to 750 points on offer
? World Cup – up to 750 points on offer
? Africa Cup – up to 525 points on offer
? World League Round 2 and 3 – up to 400 points on offer

Events that we currently don’t qualify for and get no ranking points for – World League Finals (top 8 nations post Rounds, 1-3) and Champions Trophy (Top 8 nations) with 400 points and 200 points respectively.  So in summary the FIH offers us up to 7 ranking opportunities of which the Olympics and the World Cup carry the highest possible ranking points.  We are aiming to break into the top 10 countries in world hockey and cannot do that if participation opportunities become increasingly limited due to finance or other decisions such as whether to send or not send teams to the Olympic Games.

We have looked at our current positions and can confirm that should the teams not be allowed to compete at the Olympic Games, then both teams will drop down by 4-5 ranking points, leaving the SA Women at 15th and the SA Men at 19th.  This drop in rankings will be a direct result of not competing in Rio and not a direct result of the teams form or potential performance – this is the bare fact.  Unlike individual athletes the knock on effect is not on an individual athlete, but rather on a country position in world rankings.  No matter how good the next generation of players are, they will walk into a team with a ranking outside of the top 10.  These facts must be taken into consideration in the best interest of the sport.

The SA women in Rio would simply have to win 2 matches to move higher in rankings to top 10.  The SA men have a real chance of breaking into the top 9 as in their competition they have for the first time collectively countries like Brazil, Canada, Ireland and India whom they have consistently beaten in the last 4 years.  They have also previously beaten Great Britain and drew the match NZL at the London Olympic Games in 2012.  The exclusion of hockey powerhouses, the likes of Pakistan and New Zealand means that the men will finish higher than they have ever before.

The two national hockey teams as SA Olympic team sports are ranked in the top 3 with only Rugby 7’s men being ahead. – Rugby 7’s (men ranked 3rd), Hockey women (ranked 11th) and Hockey men (ranked 15th).  With regards to performance the SA women finished 4th /10 at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the SA Men finished 5th/10.  

There has been much discussion about the strength of the African qualification route.  In fact there has been discussion about it being SASCOC policy of not looking at African qualification, we have checked our records and cannot find a time when this matter was tabled or adopted by Olympic codes as set out by clause 18.15 of the SASCOC constitution.  Whilst it may have been spoken about broadly at the 2012 General Meeting and the Presidents Council this in no way constituted a decision on behalf of Olympic codes.

As SAHA we are looking at medalling at Durban 2022, everything we do from hereon in is with this vision in mind #roadtoDurban2022.  Hockey high performance experts seem to agree on the philosophy that it takes 8 years to build a team so we are already in the phase of preparation for Durban2022.  In order to succeed in Durban, we have to be given every opportunity to excel, every opportunity to grow our athletes, every opportunity to expose them to playing the best teams in the world as regularly as possible.

We have noted the comments that not sending the teams to RIO is not about the money, as taking teams to the Olympics is one of the cheapest events from a team delivery perspective.  So effectively we have a decision that’s being taken, which is not in the interest of the sport, nor is it a decision that is taken to cut costs, nor is it a decision to not take hockey as they will not return a medal as this is a known fact, so the question that begs answering then is why are we as SASCOC stopping the participation of athletes at the Olympic games when olympism is what we are promoting as an organisation.

We would like to urge the board to review the criteria for the Hockey teams, to bear in mind the ramifications for the code, to consider the complexity of team sports vs individual athletes and to put the interest of the game first. 

We trust that your will find the above in order.

Kind regards,
Marissa Langeni
CEO: SA Hockey