In American sport, the concept of a Hall of Fame, in which famous players are honoured and interesting memorabilia exhibited, is well established.
US baseball, gridiron and golf have their memorials to the history of their games and to be inducted results in the decoration “Hall of Famer” being added whenever a sportsman or woman is referred to in the media or introduced at an event.
Given the hallowed status afforded to most legendary sportspeople in South Africa, one would think memorials honouring them would be a natural extension of their playing days, but this has not been the case.
A South African Golf Hall of Fame has recently been established at Ernie Els’ Oubaai resort course near George, while former Springbok and SuperSport rugby analyst Naas Botha has spent many hours in the past few years trying to establish a national monument to sport.
Although “inductions” into the SA Hall of Fame have taken place since 2006, no actual museum as yet exists.
The process has been fraught with difficulties.
Botha and his associates were compelled into working within governmental structures, forced into adding the arts to their concept and in October 2011, it was announced that the SA Sports and Arts Hall of Fame would be established at the FNB Stadium.
The announcement immediately engendered outraged reaction from many quarters, accusations of having been sidelined were made, and the upshot is that there is still no “Hall” at Nasrec.
It appears to be a situation beset with all of the sensitivities that muddy the waters whenever the question of recognising history is raised in South Africa.
However, it is into this minefield that the SA Rugby Union (Saru) has chosen to stride with the announcement that a “Springbok Experience” rugby museum will be established at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
The announcement was made with much fanfare, with all the captains of various codes and convictions invited to be present, but it appears Saru may have knocked on with this project.
There has been an outcry in local design circles that the contract for establishing the museum has been awarded to a British firm at an alleged cost of R40 million.
Although the British company in question, Mather & Co, boasts the London Olympics, the Football Association and top Premiership clubs among its clients for whom it has done installations, it does seem odd that a South African organisation charged with the custodianship of an iconic South African brand should spend South Africans’ rands overseas.
The Springbok Experience will boast state-of-the-art interactive games, a retail store and a museum for memorabilia.
The amount of R40 million is based on costings done by local exhibition companies.
In addition, Saru is said to have entered into a rental agreement on the premises of R150 000, excluding staff costs.
These premises are said to be “off the beaten track” currently being refurbished above a parking garage.
In terms of cost versus recovery through paying visitors and other functions, the sums, if the figures are correct, just do not add up.
Celebrating past achievements is praiseworthy, but in Saru’s case extremely odd given that the union’s previous museum at Newlands was allowed to go to wrack and ruin, including claims that many rare pieces of memorabilia were stolen.
It would perhaps be justifiable if Saru’s unions were in ruddy financial health, that the money could not be better spent on development programmes and that the whole thing was in line with BEE policies, but this clearly seems to be not the case.
I have a feeling Saru is going to be blown offside on this one.
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