Big Sport, By The Numbers: How Many Amateur Athletes Are There in Cape Town?

Myolisi Gophe and Nicklaus Kruger 7 March 2021

Sport is known for its power to change the world, inspire and unite people (to paraphrase no less an authority than Nelson Mandela, an amateur sportsman himself, and someone who knew a bit about uniting people). Sport is also, as the Commonwealth Secretariat has pointed out, a vehicle for development and peacebuilding.

And nowhere is that more important than in Cape Town, one of the most beautiful, most diverse – and most unequal – cities in the whole world.

Cape Town has a low but a decent number of people who are formally participating in amateur sports. Recent research by Cape At Six Sport magazine shows that the Mother City had approximately just under 200 000 registered sports people in 2019 – the last year when amateur sports were fully active before it was disrupted by the COVID-19 global pandemic (you may have heard of it).

With the population in the City estimated at 4.5 million in the same year, this put the number of athletes, coaches, managers and administrators at grassroots level at around 5%. This excludes members of society who are involved in informal sports or professional levels, and only reflects figures from federations that responded. These were football, athletics, rugby, cricket, basketball, netball, cycling, gymnastic and tug of war.

Still, at 6pm you will find Cape Town sports fields, community halls, parks or open spaces abuzz with many activities – and  the City and surrounds have produced many talented amateur athletes in all sporting codes, many of whom have gone on to be world champions and household names, and many of whom are making a difference in their communities.

According to figures obtained by Cape At 6 Sport from federations’ annual reports and responses, football has an overwhelming number of participants with 120 000 footballers registered by SAFA Cape Town in the 2019/2020 seasons. (Note: The registration was over a two year period, with transfers permitted in between. This could mean that one member could have been registered twice over the period.)

Western Province Athletics Association was the second biggest federation, with about 17 000 members in the same year, followed by Western Province Club Rugby at 12 500 and Western Province Cricket Association at 6 050. With 3 571 and 3 500 member, respectively, Cape Town Gymnastics Association and Cape Town Netball Federation were almost neck on neck.

Cape Town Basketball Association had around 2 000 participants, 500 more than the Western Province Cycling Association which saw about 1 500 at each events, and Cape Metropole Tug of War which had about 600 members.

(It must be emphasised that these figures are only of those leagues that responded, and the number could be higher.)

It is against this backdrop that Cape At 6 Sport Magazine was established – to spark transformation and development in society by sharing the power of sport to inspire, to challenge, and to change lives. With diverse sport coverage of black and white, poor and rich sports people, it is our vision to contribute in transformation and development of the region through sport.

So…know of any sporting stories we should be sharing? Why not let us know at  And feel free to check out the first 2021 issue of the Cape At 6 magazine. Edutainment guaranteed!