Fri 20 Jan 2023 | 12:24

Heritage Summary: 'Newlands was a space of exclusion'

Heritage Summary: 'Newlands was a space of exclusion'
Fri 20 Jan 2023 | 12:24
Heritage Summary: 'Newlands was a space of exclusion'
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SPOTLIGHT: The Western Province Rugby Football Union has provided a summary of their legal opinion on why Newlands Rugby Stadium should not be declared a heritage site.

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The process of selling the stadium has been delayed ever since former Springbok captain Wynand Claassen launched a bid in June to have the stadium declared a heritage site.

The Heritage Western Cape committee, which met with both Claassen and SARU representatives on the matter, could have a decision by February.

On Thursday, Rian Oberholzer, who was appointed by SARU in October 2021 as the administrator to regularise the affairs of the WPRFU, said the union was prepared to go to court if the Heritage Western Cape committee ruled in favour of Claassen.

In the summary of the WPRFU’s legal opinion, the stadium does not meet the criteria for a heritage site.

“To be clear, the nomination of the Newlands Stadium for Provincial heritage site is rejected as the site does not possess sufficient architectural, aesthetic, historic, social, associational and contextual significance to meet the requirements of a grade in terms of Section 7 (1) of the NHRA,” said part of the summary.

“The merit of a stance on heritage can also differ from person to person.”

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The story continues below…

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The summary goes on to explain that the stadium’s history did not bring about positive memories for all.

“Newlands has history on its side. But good and bad history. It is the venue where the Boks’ epic 1995 Rugby World Cup journey began… For all the positive nostalgia Newlands conjures up, it also has plenty of negative memories for the many who were denied the opportunity to play representative rugby during apartheid.

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“In this spirit the Cape Town Stadium represents a fresh start! Newlands will forever be etched in our memories – for good or bad. But memories belong in museums. It’s time to move on and the sooner, the better. Rugby and our city need the move to Cape Town Stadium.

“Newlands was one of the first sports grounds where support for and loyalty to a South African national team was displayed, albeit a White national team. Interviewees from traditionally White clubs largely expressed positive memories and associations of Newlands.

“However, the attachment to Newlands for non-White interviewees was often qualified, and in some instances, lacking and or indifferent. Like all other stadiums during the Apartheid-era, Newlands was also a space of exclusion. As such, for many non-White rugby fans, the unsullied association with and memories of Newlands only date back to 1992 or later and it should be noted that until 1990, non-White visitors were relegated to portions of one stand, the ‘Malay Stand’. ”

Read WPRFU’s full Heritage Summary below:

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Heritage Summary:

WPRFU, upon being advised of the application to declare Newlands Rugby Stadium a Heritage Precinct, appointed Bridget O’Donoghue an Architect Heritage Specialist and Tony Barbour as its Environmental Consultant.

This study is required as a response to the nomination for Provincial status of the Newlands Stadium. Tony Barbour concentrated on the Social Assessment to assess the social and socio-economic implications associated with the nomination and a future demolition of the Newlands Rugby Stadium and the future development of the site.

To be clear, the nomination of the Newlands Stadium for Provincial heritage site is rejected as the site does not possess sufficient architectural, aesthetic, historic, social, associational and contextual significance to meet the requirements of a grade in terms of Section 7 (1) of the NHRA.

The merit of a stance on heritage can also differ from person to person.

One could talk about the wonderful memories of players who played there in the past, but others would likely be embittered because they were never given the opportunity to play there during Apartheid era.  Another perspective is that is – stripped of all emotion – nothing more than a rugby field. A church, for instance, does not cease to exist when it moves from one building to another.

Newlands has history on its side. But good and bad history. It is the venue where the Boks’ epic 1995 Rugby World Cup journey began… For all the positive nostalgia Newlands conjures up, it also has plenty of negative memories for the many who were denied the opportunity to play representative rugby during apartheid.

In this spirit the Cape Town Stadium represents a fresh start!  Newlands will forever be etched in our memories – for good or bad. But memories belong in museums. It’s time to move on and the sooner, the better. Rugby and our city need the move to Cape Town Stadium. 

Newlands was one of the first sports grounds where support for and loyalty to a South African national team was displayed, albeit a White national team.  Interviewees from traditionally White clubs largely expressed positive memories and associations of Newlands.

However, the attachment to Newlands for non-White interviewees was often qualified, and in some instances, lacking and or indifferent. Like all other stadiums during the Apartheid-era, Newlands was also a space of exclusion. As such, for many non-White rugby fans, the unsullied association with and memories of Newlands only date back to 1992 or later and it should be noted that until 1990, non-White visitors were relegated to portions of one stand, the ‘Malay Stand’.

That being said, Newlands also played an important role in the history of the racial transformation of SA rugby. A number of milestones were achieved at the stadium during the 1970s and 1980s, including the fielding the first players of colour in a representative South African A team against a foreign team, and the first time a player of colour played for the

Springboks in a test match. Hennie Shields and John Noble played for the first integrated South African team – the SA Invitation XV – during the 1975 French tour. The team was put together by the SARB after South African government refused permission to include players of colour in any official Springbok team. The only match between the two teams was played at Newlands.

As indicated in the case studies reviewed, Newlands Stadium is not unique. Many stadiums have a unique history, both in terms of their contribution to the respective sports code and also in terms of their contribution to the history, social fabric and heritage of the city and suburb that they were located in. Over the last 25-years or so a number of internationally recognised and historic rugby and soccer stadiums have been demolished and the host clubs or unions have established new stadiums and or relocated to new modern facilities. This has been driven by a number of factors that are essentially common to each facility. These include: –

  • the need to be compliant with internationally recognised safety standards; and
  • provide spectators with user-friendly and technologically more advanced facilities, while at the same time increasing capacity and spectator experiences;
  • association with amenities (transport, entertainment).

Internationally, clubs have relocated to stadiums developed as part of bids for international sporting events, such as the Soccer and Rugby World Cup or Olympic Games. The WPRFU’s decision to relocate to the Cape Town Stadium which was established for the 2010 Football World Cup is no different in this regard.

Two examples are the Carisbrook Stadium (House of Pain) in Dunedin and Athletic Park in Wellington who both share a similar history to the Newlands Stadium both in terms of timeframes and contribution to rugby in their respective countries.  In both instances these historic stadiums were demolished, and the home unions relocated to new, modern stadiums. The old stadium sites were redeveloped.

From a heritage perspective, it would appear that in the majority of instances the old stadium and associated structures are demolished in their entirety. In a number of isolated cases, such as Arsenal’s Highbury stadium, the art deco stand was retained and included as part of the redevelopment of the old stadium site.

Based on the information available at the time of preparing the Social Statement, none of the structures associated with the Newlands Stadium are of heritage significance.

Based on the findings of the study the demolition of the Newlands Stadium, like the demolition of many other historically significant stadiums in other parts of the world would not represent an irreplaceable social loss. While Newlands does hold special memories for many rugby supporters, for the current generation the future of rugby is already associated with the Cape Town Stadium. A number of interviewees indicated the survival of the game, and the Western Province Rugby Union should take precedence in any decisions regarding the future of Newlands Stadium.

It is not without reason that a developer may well  incorporate a historic elements of the old stadium into the design of the new stadium or the redevelopment of the

old stadium site. The memorialization strategy proposed for the Newlands Stadium by most interviewees included the establishment of a rugby museum on or near the stadium premises; reflective plaques commemorating moments in history or retention of part of the older structure as living memory. 

Based on the findings of the Social Assessment there appear to be no compelling reasons and or international precedents to declare Newland Stadium and the associated site a Provincial Heritage Site. The social memories associated with Newlands and the Newlands Stadium are largely linked to the events that took place at the stadium, as opposed to the actual stadium itself. The most effective way to preserve some of these memories and the history of the site and the Newlands Stadium would be to establish a rugby museum, commemorative structure or plaque  on or near the current site of the Newlands Stadium as opposed to retaining the stadium itself.

It is clear, as will be recorded in this meeting that the Newlands stadium is currently unused and the structure requires repair for any future event. In the absence of financial resources, on-going maintenance, retaining the existing stadium will also pose increasing safety risks to the public. In addition, the stadium is functionality outdated for the players, administrators and the public. Retaining the existing stadium will impose an increasing financial burden on the Western Province Rugby Football Union and the rate payers of Cape Town.

A future Heritage Impact Assessment would provide the necessary assessment and procedures for ensuring that heritage related aspects are identified and considered by Heritage Western Cape as part of the design and redevelopment of the Newlands Stadium site. These procedures are not contingent upon Newlands Stadium being declared a Provincial Heritage Site.

The nomination of the Newlands Stadium for Provincial heritage site is rejected as the site does not possess sufficient architectural, aesthetic, historic, social, associational and contextual significance to meet the requirements of a grade in terms of Section 7 (1) of the NHRA.

PV: 14
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