History of The Wanderers Club – Part 23

Inspiring Those Who Aspire To Be

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE – Looking Back on the Past

Welcome to the 90’s!

What a positively wonderful way to begin the new decade – or at least one would like to think so ……

  • W. de Klerk announces plans to end apartheid.
  • Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11 February 1990.
  • Black children are admitted to schools previously reserved for whites only.
  • President Bush announces the United States is ending its 1986enacted sanctions on South Africa.

 However South African sport was still in a mess.  The rot reached down from the shambles on top to the disillusionment at grassroots and club levels.  The debacle over the Gatting rebel cricket tour seemed to mark the lowest point that our national sport could ever fall to but having become accustomed to the ever-deepening hardship heaped upon our sportsmen and sportswomen over the past quarter of a century, one could only assume that the worst was still yet to come.



In the great joy brought about by the release of Nelson Mandela, the country was suddenly thrust towards a very different future and there was much talk about conciliation, equality and peace.  For several years South African sportsmen, players and administrators alike, had been aware that the only real way out of the impasse of isolation was to forge the integration of all controlling bodies, which hitherto had been operating on a separate racial basis, and to make genuine and massive efforts to equalise opportunities and facilities for all sections of the population.

A few examples of controlling sporting bodies in the 90s –


It would therefore seem that there would be no need for displays of hostility, intimidation and disruptions by representatives of disadvantaged people, which could only perpetuate and exacerbate old wounds and insults and create an atmosphere of suspicion and hatred.

Apartheid had been acknowledged and regretted as a political and social evil and a huge mistake by the governments of the day and it was safe to say that the majority of ordinary people were keen to see the last of it.  It would please most people if sport could be kept free of politics, but not everyone was of that opinion.  One would imagine that most sportsmen, having had enough of politics and politicians, would beg to differ.

MEANWHILE back at the Wanderers Club all had been pretty quiet and the sub-clubs once again were proving to be lax in submitting any news for members to read but one had to appreciate that sub-club committees had much more on their minds than the observation of magazine deadlines.  However, full car parks testified to the continued popularity of the Club as a social spot for thousands of members but this was not always constant and numbers fluctuated from week to week.

At the beginning of the 90’s there had definitely been a decline in club sport with sub-clubs losing members to the new aerobics and health and recreation complexes that sprang up in various South African cities with their wide range of expensive exercise equipment, heated swimming pools and spas.  If club sport was to survive, club committees needed to become aware of these dangers and do their best not to allow it to disappear altogether.

One of the noticeable features of the Wanderers scene in 1990 was the reduced activity at the Club and pressure on the facilities for leagues and other competitions fell off quite markedly.   Team sports were not as popular as they had been in the past and the country’s economy seriously dented individual participation in all traditional branches of sport.  This was also evident in the Club’s continuous decline in membership.  In 1990 membership figures stood at 11 301 compared to several years earlier in 1983 when they stood at 14 000, a decrease of 2 700 members over six years.

South Africa continued to be tormented by racial animosity, habitual crime and volatile, primitive emotions, all of which clouded the future with grave uncertainty and anxiety.  In the world of sport there had been some welcome indications that the long years of isolation may soon be over for some branches of sport in which unity of administration between racial groups appeared to be on the verge of achievement.  Meanwhile, in the club environment, things were peaceful and uneventful and it was hoped that the Club’s sporting and social life would not suffer any harm during what could become a lengthy transition.  So, while one read and heard about exciting prospects of an early resumption of international participation in sport, there were also cautious predictions in terms of how long this might take.  We were therefore expected to imagine with relief and enthusiasm the possibility of re-entry into the international arena only in 1992 and thereafter, even though apartheid was already well on its way to being wiped out in sport.

Perhaps in view of the enormous malice in the international community by many years of hard-headed, ruthless apartheid and now the unreasonable manoeuvres of equally misguided political rivals, people should rather have been thinking about whatever hopes they may have in this connection with a dose of apprehension.   It was hoped that in the process, club sport and social activities would not be impaired or obliterated completely but would remain an effective factor in the maintenance and survival of the Club’s cherished values and standards.

The world was as usual in a whirl with many disturbances and distractions, including major earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, floods and political upheavals.  These incredible happenings abroad should have taken our minds off our own problems back home where some profound changes in lifestyles and modes of government proved imminent.  One aspect of debate was the isolation of South African sport in the international sphere and the impending liberation from the shackles imposed on it more than two decades ago by overseas anti-apartheid movements.   The pre-requisite of unity among racial controlling bodies had proven to be an elusive target and it was said to be offensive for impatient sportsmen and administrators to try to get back into the international arena before unity had been achieved and the relevant suspensions lifted.

By and large, 1990 had been a fairly miserable year for most of the sporting community who had a longing for glamour and rewards on a global scale.  Setting the tone with the unfortunate Gatting cricket tour earlier in the year, the South African sporting scene slipped even further into the despair of isolation in spite of all the acknowledgements, in many parts of the world, of significant changes taking place in the country in the way of socio-political reform.

Against this depressing background, Wanderers did feel some relief with the sale of the stadium in the amount of R4.3m to the Johannesburg City Council for lease to the Transvaal Cricket Council as it no longer had any obligations as its owner to the cricket-watching public of Johannesburg.  This amount was set aside as a Development Fund, to be invested and used in future years for capital projects.  A separate Development Fund committee was formed made up of internal and external experts and the Club approved the Fund’s Rules to govern its administration.  The Development Fund has been prudently managed by its dedicated trustees, has grown considerably through the years and it has been used on several occasions for the expansion of capital projects.

This was not the first time that the Wanderers Club had come into a considerable amount of money and one of the most notable was when the club was forced to transfer its home from the city centre to Kent Park.  At that time it was resolved that a substantial portion of the huge sum of £499 000 received by the Club as compensation should be invested and the interest used to subsidise subscriptions for those members who could not afford them, especially the junior members.  These good intentions however came to nothing as when the stadium project suddenly loomed up it swallowed all of the Club’s available funds.  In addition to this the Club was left with a huge amount of debt amounting to around £250 000, which has thankfully long since been extinguished.

So, back to the 90s, and the Wanderers Club was not

all doom and gloom as spring had sprung, rain had fallen, and the fields were turning green and soon the grounds would once again be looking spectacular.

It was time again to provide summer sporting members with the traditional excellence of its amenities and a pleasant environment for their diverse activities.




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Treat that special lady in your life to a High Tea at the Wanderers Club on Sunday 13th May 2018