The South African Rugby Union could be prevented from bidding for the 2023 World Cup by its own government after the sports minister on Monday banned the country’s five top sports federations from bidding for or hosting major international tournaments for at least a year over their failures to create opportunities for black players.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula made the announcement after receiving a report on “transformation” in South Africa’s five biggest sports: Rugby, cricket, soccer, athletics and netball.
The athletics and netball federations also were banned from bidding. Soccer was the only one to meet its target.
“I have therefore resolved to revoke the privilege of Athletics South Africa (ASA), Cricket South Africa (CSA), Netball South Africa (NSA) and South African rugby (SARU) to host and bid for major and mega international tournaments,” Mbalula said in a statement.
The ban comes into effect immediately, Mbalula said. He said he will review his decision when he has received the results of the federations’ transformation efforts for 2016-17. That could be at the end of next year, or maybe only in early 2018.
His move complicates South Africa’s intention to bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The South African Rugby Union has already announced its intention to bid. World Rugby will release tender documents to interested countries in May, and countries must formally confirm their intention to bid in June.
South Africa, host in 1995, has been trying to hold the Rugby World Cup again since 2011 but failed in three successive bids. Under the decision announced by Mbalula on Monday, SARU wouldn’t be allowed to bid for 2023.
Both the rugby and cricket federations said their officials would go into closed-door meetings with sports ministry officials after the announcement. Athletics South Africa said it would need to study the “pronouncement” made by Mbalula before commenting.
Rugby is the only one of the sports seeking to host a major event in the near future. Mbalula’s decision should not affect the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which has already been awarded to Durban. The Commonwealth bid was led by the South African Olympic committee.
The South African government has been pushing for years for the country’s main sports – especially rugby and cricket – to create more opportunities for black players. More than two decades after the end of apartheid, those two sports are still generally dominated by whites despite the fact that blacks make up over 80 percent of South Africa’s population.
All five federations agreed on various transformation targets with the government in 2015. Those agreements involved getting black players involved at school, age-group and club level, right up to provincial and national level.