2 planned laws promise a big shake-up for sport and gyms in South Africa

 ·9 Jan 2020

The Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa has published two new amendment bills which promise a big shake-up for sports in South Africa.

Both bills, open for public comment, have already created controversy, specifically around the amount of power the legislation will centralise in government.

Questions have been raised as to whether government is overreaching, as the bills will also impact the fitness and gym industries.

You can find a breakdown of the new bills below.

Plan to ‘nationalise’ all sports, clubs and gyms in South Africa

The National Sport and Recreation Act draft amendment bill aims to bring all sports codes, clubs and fitness organisations under the direct regulatory control of the minister.

This includes establishing a Sport Arbitration Tribunal to resolve disputes between sport or recreation bodies; regulate combat sport; regulate the fitness industry; provide for the procedure in bidding for and hosting of international sports and recreation events; provide for the delegation of powers; provide for offences and penalties; and to provide for matters connected with these.

Among the many proposed changes in the bill is the removal of the independence of sports bodies, which would now have to develop ways to promote their sports in consultation with the minister, as well as giving the minister power to step-in directly in any disputes within sports.

The department also wants to assume full control of all sports codes, with its oversight extending to “any national federation, agency, club or body, including a trust, professional league, or registered company of such a national federation, agency, club or body, involved in the administration of sport or recreation at local, provincial or national level.”

This would ostensibly include fitness groups like Virgin Active and Planet Fitness, which would have to register and be certified by the department.

The department would also be empowered to hand out penalties to organisations or aforementioned clubs if they do not comply with the prescriptions in the Act, including fines and up to two years in jail.

According to experts and sports bodies speaking to Rapport, the move is nothing short of the nationalisation of sport in South Africa and could lead to the country being booted out of international competitions including the Olympics.

The DA argues that the bill places the minister at the centre of everything that happens in sport and that throughout the document, the powers are vested in the minister and/or his authorised representative – at local, provincial as well as national level.

However, Sumaya Khan, acting director-general of the department of sports, recreation and culture, told the City Press it was not true that the minister wanted to take over the running of all sports.

“The minister only wants to create a mechanism so that he can intervene by instituting investigations without interfering in the (daily administration).”

Early public commentary around the bill has raised concerns that it could cause lead to massive disinvestment from sports in the country due to distrust in the government.

However, some commenters have noted that it might result in a much-needed injection in skills and resources into smaller sports.


The bill amending the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sports Act aims to clamp down on doping in South Africa.

To this end, the new legislation will allow:

  • The testing of learners participating in sport and to provide for prior consent in writing by parents or legal guardians relative to testing of learners under the age of 18 years;
  • Provide for dope testing of members of the fitness industry;
  • Provide for the appointment of inspectors and for the powers to inspect, enter and search certain premises in the fitness industry, pharmaceuticals that provide sports supplements, and any other premises which distribute or sell sports supplements;
  • Provision for prohibitions in relation to the possession and distribution of prohibited substances as prescribed by the World AntiDoping Agency and to provide for compliance with a performance system by the South African Institute for Drug-free Sport.

The bills are currently open for public comment. You can find more information here.

Read: 6 planned laws for South Africa you should know about in 2020

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter