Unbeknownst to any of the SAUFF committee member, there was a change to the registration process for competing in world events sanctioned by CMAS, from a paper submission to a web based submission.
If any “unpaid” licences for competing in previous world events where outstanding then the web based registration process could not be completed. Despite the full payment of over €4500 to the organisers, we were never informed that we have not complied fully with the CMAS process. In fact there was no communication from CMAS with regards to the payment of the outstanding licence fees. In the past there has been no problem in sorting these payments out and South African competitors have competed in zones and world events with these outstanding fees not causing issues. A number of these fees date back 4 years.
The organisers, FEGAS, and CMAS were very aware that the South African competitors where in Spain as they competed in a friendly competition weeks before the start of the event and had valid licences for diving in Spain. It is surprising that other Federations knew about this problem before any of the South African team or committee members, weeks before the start of the event. The South African side was deliberately kept in the dark and at no time did CMAS make an effort to discuss this issue with us.
Three days before the event I went to the organisers and spoke to them about the registration and I was assured that everything was in order.
That evening, Jaco Blignaut and I went to drop off the flag and we were told that there was an “issue”, the same afternoon that we had received an email from FEGAS, not CMAS, informing us there was a technical issue that needed to be sorted out.
I spoke with the CMAS disciplinary official who informed me that there was an outstanding internet submission that was required. The next morning as soon as possible I paid the outstanding amount of €485 personally and forwarded proof of payment to CMAS who confirmed the payment. With the help of SAUSF we completed the outstanding forms and submitted them.
Despite full payment they flatly refused to discuss the matter as they said there was a disclosure on the web site that these fees had to be paid 30 days before the competition. Again there was no information about this given to us, nor any communication from CMAS about this prior to the boys landing in Spain, or at any time before the registration with the Spanish Federation. One would have thought that there would have been some effort to communicate the fact that there where outstanding “issues” before the massive effort of the South African competitors.
For three days I fought to get the boys permission to be able to compete. We had complied with all the outstanding requirements as soon as we knew about them. This was the first time these requirements were implemented.
CMAS could have allowed us to compete, but decided against it due to a technicality.
I cannot explain how gutted and disappointed I was with the treatment of an issue that could easily have been resolved. The South African competitors have sacrificed more than most as we are self-funded and all full time employees. This means not only having to pay in full for the trip themselves but also having to take up unpaid leave in some instances or forgo job opportunities.
SA spearfishing was made a political example of on purpose as we are a tiny federation with little recourse and we were used as a pawn to “make a point”, but were a significant threat in terms of competing for the top spots.
Making a point of disallowing us to participate goes against the very nature of what sport is about. Putting politics before fair competition highlights how CMAS, in my opinion, has lost sight of what they are there for.
There could have been many other ways of resolving this issue positively and in the best interests of competitive sport. We are desperately unhappy with the attitude of the regulating authorities and cannot understand why this prevailing attitude should be allowed to continue. It is surely not in the best interests of building this sport for the future.
I have organised a meeting with the South African authorities on Monday the 16th July to discuss a way forward and will keep all those involved informed on any progress.