City in uphill battle to revive fields in a post-drought sport season

by | Feb 8, 2019 | Featured Slider, Latest, News

Statement by Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Zahid Badroodien

The City’s Recreation and Parks Department has been faced with the enormous challenge of maintaining sports fields, parks and greenbelts during one of the worst droughts in Cape Town’s history. When relief came following late rains and the subsequent lowering of water restrictions, it eased strict water limitations primarily for households and allowed a recovery period for municipal facilities to ensue.
However, the Department is still facing a huge challenge when it comes to restoration of sports field to their pre-drought condition. Plans for rehabilitation of grass at fields for sporting codes take several growing seasons to yield favourable results, due to a combination of:

  • continuously high demands for water to regrow grass whilst the City still limits usage under Level 3 restrictions
  • ongoing use of the fields by various sporting codes, thus not allowing time for fields to be rehabilitated in the shortest possible time period
  • a dependency on the conditions of natural elements which are a key contributing factor in large outdoor fields, constantly exposed to the environment

The long lasting impact of a severe drought was to be expected. This is not a new matter as the Department has had to seek many alternatives to keep facilities open and functional at varying degrees. Recreation and Parks was affected the most, given the portfolio of spray parks, sports fields, parks, pools, public ablutions and community centres that the Department manages.
Throughout the duration of the drought, the Department held meetings with all the major sporting federations affected; and continuously cautioned all role players about the impact that the drought and ongoing play was having on turf grass fields. A weekly sport field condition scoring mechanism (“triage system”) was introduced, specifically to gather information that could be used to advise users on the capacity left and playable hours for each field.
In June 2017, in a sample of 92 sports fields, 22 had already been found to be completely unusable, 37 were judged to be useable for a maximum of four hours per week, 20 could be used for up to six hours a week, and 13 were judged to be useable for eight hours a week.
While some federations introduced several measures, including cancelling leagues in an effort to preserve the fields, SAFA refused to consider this guidance from the City.  Instead, SAFA called on their players through social media channels to continue using the fields as normal. City officials informed SAFA that their actions would have a disastrous effect on the condition of sport fields for years to come, as there was no supply of water available to reinstate fields to their former condition – even if the budgets for such reinstatements could be found.
The Department continued to engage SAFA in an effort to find alternative solutions including:

  • A request made to all federations to submit a list of their most important fixtures, so that those fields could be prioritised for irrigation with treated effluent or borehole water
  • A decision made to allow the City’s 29 artificial turfs to be used to accommodate as many of the major soccer fixtures as possible as and when determined by SAFA
  • Suggestions made for a number of contingency plans to ensure that the sport continued as far as possible, such as the use of community halls for junior games where a soccer ball could be replaced with a softer, indoor ball

All requests were not responded to and SAFA failed to adapt to the new way of life that all residents in Cape Town were forced to adjust to during water saving measures.

Unfortunately, this led to the state of deterioration that the facilities are now in. On average, it takes in excess of R400 000 and 3 million litres of water to reinstate a field once it has reached this state. This means that it will likely be many years before the City will be able to get these fields back to a reasonable state for play.

Several alternative water sources have been, and still are being implemented throughout the city. In the 2017/18 financial year, 11 boreholes were sunk at a cost of R4,5 million; and a further 24 boreholes are in progress at a cost of R13 million for the current financial year. The Department also spent R360 000 for a connection to the limited treated effluent supply and purchased water tankers at a cost of R4,5 million.
Four new artificial football pitches were initiated in 2017/18, at a cost of R28,9 million and are due to be completed in the current financial year.
Added to this, the Department, through its expert sport, recreation and horticultural staff, annually spend an average of R13 million on the repairs and maintenance of sport fields. 
For any organisation to claim that clubs or federations are now suffering due to the negligence and incompetency of the City, reeks purely of opportunism or a lack of knowledge about the real reasons for facilities being in this current state.
The City remains committed to providing quality, accessible and safe facilities to all communities in Cape Town, and we call on everyone, whether individuals or organisations, to act responsibly and co-operate during these challenging times. Only together will we be able to restore our invaluable outdoor assets.


Pro Landscaper Africa February Sports & Play Issue 2022