And Now It’s the ‘Eighties’

  • The British Sports Council begins a fact-finding tour to investigate racial discrimination in South African sport.
  • Massive national school boycotts rock the townships.


wanderers club Looking Back on the Past, Part 17 5

1980 did not have a particularly bright outlook as the scenario set by the hectic seventies contained many dark areas of difficulty and anxiety which would call for sharp thinking and planning by committees, and a good deal of co-operation, devotion and understanding on the part of members.  But all was not doom and gloom.  Although the climate of the seventies made it easier to be a pessimist rather than an optimist, there were predictions that the country was heading for an economic boom after several years of depression.  Should this happen, the Club would certainly benefit from such good fortune.

The past decade had been an age of achievement, especially in the fields of science and technology and by 1980, humanity had reached a state of inventiveness far higher than ever before.  But unfortunately, the planet still had its share of human problems and warfare, both international and civil, with strikes, terrorism and violence being just a few examples of man’s inherent insensitivity towards his neighbour.

At Wanderers, all this turmoil seemed little more than a rumbling in the background of a world that existed only in newspapers and TV coverage, but in truth, these impacts did infiltrate into the local community, as could be seen by the huge empty stands at the stadium reminding one daily of South Africa’s isolation in sport resulting from political interferences and hostility.

No expansions or improvements could be made at the Club due to financial restrictions; even routine maintenance became costly and difficult with periodic increases in subscriptions doing little to boost Club finances.

In a turbulent world in which the continuance of long-established institutions like the Olympic Games had been cast into jeopardy, the Wanderers Club in its modest way remained a haven of sanity, orderliness, and human tolerance – a striking contrast to the hysterical, illogical, and malicious ways of thinking and behaviour which had gripped sport in the more exposed sectors.  But, despite its lack of violence and sensation, the Wanderers was hardly a backwater as countless sportspeople and spectators alike were still attracted to its premises most weekends.

The Club quietly went about its business of providing sport and recreation to its many members as it had in the past and most certainly did not feel the necessity to operate in the glare of publicity to fulfil its function as a home of sport.  The same could be said of its members who were only concerned with their own active participation in their favourite pastimes and were not obsessed with following the careers of money-making stars who grabbed attention in the various media.

No event could have illustrated more thoroughly and more conclusively the mixture of politics and sport than the 1980 Olympic Games that were held in July in Moscow.  Because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the games were widely boycotted by Western nations led by the United States of America and turned into yet another aspect of East-West confrontation.  South Africa was, of course, excluded from participating, as it had been for the past 16 years.

wanderers club Looking Back on the Past, Part 17 6

Lord Killanin, the President of the International Olympic Committee

The president of the International Olympic Committee, Lord Killanin, wielded great influence not only in the Olympic movement but in sport in general and did everything in his power to obstruct any attempt by South Africa to be re-admitted to the Olympic movement.  He was adamant that South Africa would not be re-admitted during his term in office.

The Wanderers Club AGM held in July 1980 was very poorly attended and there were not enough members to constitute a quorum. However, after much searching in and around the clubhouse, a minimum of 100 people were eventually registered and it went ahead. The Chairman at the AGM, Herby Hadfield, happily reported that for the first time in years the Club was not in overdraft with its bankers.  The reason for the poor attendance on this occasion had been attributed to the fact that a popular TV series entitled ‘Dallas’ was being aired on TV at the same time as the AGM and viewing had become a weekly compulsion for avid fans of the series.

How good it would have been if 1980 had closed with an end to the woes of South African sportsmen so that they could once again continue to commune freely with friends and rivals alike in other parts of the globe, but this was not meant to be, and they resigned themselves to this fact.  There were too many politicians and other influential people in the world who felt that it would be unwise to go against their individual governments regarding sporting ties with South Africa.

Trends and developments in the highly publicized sports industry reached down into the domestic club scene and not always with the happiest consequences.  Reliance on sponsorships became the name of the game as the cash-strapped clubs had no qualms about changing their names and uniforms to suit advertising sponsors.

wanderers club Looking Back on the Past, Part 17 7


Sponsored sports clothing did little to improve appearance or the nature of the game

The Wanderers Club in the early 80s was exposed to the effects of inflation as much as everyone else and the committee and staff were sorely pressed, in the face of constantly rising prices, to keep up the momentum of the Club’s activities whilst also trying to maintain the high standards of its facilities.  Should any deterioration in facilities be noticed by any member this most certainly should not have had to be explained to them and thank goodness those responsible for the upkeep of the Club coped well.  A lot of clubs felt the pinch of inflation and had to close their doors whilst others amalgamated to survive.

It was up to the members to assist the club to endure this great challenge by exercising restraint in their demands and by taking reasonable responsibility regarding their use of amenities.  There were, of course, the odd few who added to the burden by purposely damaging properly just for the fun of it and this behaviour proved not only costly but also insulting to the club.

Inflation was a scourge that mocked human progress and was a clear indication of human greed and selfishness.   Members would have to expect to pay more and more for the privilege of belonging to a world-renowned club such as The Wanderers and for the right to use its wide range of well-maintained facilities. Some people who felt the effects of inflation badly wondered whether inflation was one way in which mankind had chosen to commit suicide.

To be continued…./(18)