Bringing Paintball and Airsoft Communities in South Africa together!


Q. What is SANPA?  

A. SANPA is a registered section 21 (not for gain) association and NPO that has been created to represent the sport of paintball / airsoft community. SANPA is registered with Dept of Social Development as well as dealing with Dept of Sport, Art and Culture as well as associated with Youth Tourism South Africa (YTSA) and UPBF (United Paintball Federation) which is the International Federation (IF) for Paintball.

Sport and Recreation Act No. 110 of 1998 & Act. No 18 of 2007 (as amended) – Definition – ‘national federation’ means a national governing body of a code of sport or recreational activity in the Republic recognised by the relevant international controlling body as the only authority for the administration and control of the relative code of sport or recreational activity in the Republic; 

SANPA is therefore seen by definition as a national federation representing paintball and airsoft in South Africa. 

Responsibility according to the act –  

[The national and recreation] National federations must assume full responsibility for the safety issues within their sport and recreation disciplines. 

Q. What does SANPA do? 

A. One of the responsibilities that the Act requires of a National Federation is to assume full responsibility for the safety issues within their sport and recreation disciplines. We have primarily focused on this over the last few years to assist venues and event organisers that require assistance and support. 

SANPA is also one of the founding members of the United Paintball Federation (UPBF) that is the international federation for Paintball world-wide and is affiliated with Youth Tourism South Africa (YTSA). 

Q. What is SANPA’s vision for the future of Airsoft in South Africa? 

A. We would like to see Airsoft recognized in South Africa as more than just a hobby and evolve into a competitive sport where players can earn provincial and national ‘colours’. 

That venues, clubs and organizers have events that meet local and international safety standards, whether they are for competitive or recreational play.  

That Airsoft has a seat at the table when discussing any future national regulations that would impact on the sport or players (for example, definitions that change the classification of ‘firearm’) 

For this to be a reality there needs to be a framework to work from. We hope to create a similar structure to paintball, with the support from the airsoft community. This includes formal committee structures that are tasked with specific projects, such as 

  • Rules committee for competitive play 
  • Selection committee for provincial and national levels 

The possibility for diversifying and evolving Airsoft is up to the community and its members. Members could create any committee under SANPA to tackle a project that brings value to the community or issue that impacts players.  

Q. What has SANPA done for the sport?  

A. SANPA created the standard for provincial and national recognition for speedball players to compete in that format locally and internationally. SANPA has yearly sent a national speedball team to compete in the UPBF Paintball World Championship since 2012 and has grown this initiative since then.  

In 2016 we were able to garner sponsorship for our first U19 team, in 2018 our first female team and in 2019 we had a full complement of players representing Veterans, Mens, Womens, U19 and U16 divisions at the UPBF Paintball World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

We hope to see similar initiatives in both “woodsball”/”milsim” and Airsoft with the support and input from players and stakeholders. 

In addition, SANPA is represented on both the ASTM and SABS to liaise with, create and comment on safety standards for equipment as well as the safe operation of venues.  

SANPA works closely with Sport & Recreation as well as other government departments and has clarified several laws, relating to paintball/airsoft in South Africa over the years and will continue to lobby for its members where required. 

Q. Who administers SANPA  

A. Currently SANPA has 3 directors from a legal entity perspective with various committees that consists of players and stakeholders to manage these committees and look after the sport as and when necessary. As the organization grow, this will change to meet member requirements. 

Q. When was SANPA’s airsoft branch created

A. Although safety aspects of airsoft was always considered as being covered by SANPA, it was only over the last few months that we started receiving increased input from the airsoft community to become officially recognized.

Paul Grobler, the incorporator of SANPA and current Chairman is an active member on both the Paintball and Airsoft Working Groups of the ASTM committee in the USA since 2013. This allowed him to stay up to date with local and international standards relating to the sport which was used to advise all relevant parties that made contact with SANPA relating to these standards. 

With a more active interest taken by the airsoft community in recent months, the Memorandum of Incorporation and Constitution will need to be reviewed to take current changes into consideration. Interim working committees, made up of stakeholders and interested parties will formalize changes which can then be adopted through an official voting process. 

Q. How is the Airsoft Community currently represented in SANPA?

Paul met Alan Muller (Utac, Cape Town) at the original meetings that was hosted around South Africa to get stakeholders involved in SANPA during 2012/13. Paul made contact with Alan to gain input relating to the COVID-19 issues and the paperwork SANPA were finalizing for submission to re-opening of paintball and airsoft under the government lockdown regulations.  

Because we haven’t had anyone specific that currently was part of SANPA to push the Airsoft side we asked Alan if he would be willing to assist us with this and to help us make the airsoft community aware of what SANPA is trying to do for the sport.  

Alan accepted and agreed to commit time and experience to assist during this critical time. SANPA has provision to create ad hoc committees within its structure to address relevant issues. With Alan heading the committee, SANPA invited additional individuals that had the experience and OHSA related qualifications to effectively contribute to our current requirements of submitting COVID Prevention Safety Protocols to the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) and gain permission to re-open the sporting codes under SANPA.  

It must be noted that as per DSAC regulations only a national federation for a relevant sporting code was allowed to apply for this permission to re-open. This effectively allowed us to get permission on 15 July 2020 from DSAC to re-opening sporting activities for members under SANPA as the national organization. This was a major win for the sport and indicated what can be achieved if we work effectively together under a national association for the benefit of all its stakeholders.  Looking to the future, and after the current crisis subsides, SANPA will release their updated MOI/Constitution to its members. Members will have rights to voting on the new Executive Members in the SANPA structure to represent and achieve the goals of the different sporting codes and grow the sport even further and remain in touch with the community at large across South Africa.

Q. How will the structure work in SANPA moving forward?

The final structure is still being discussed and we appreciate the input from any stakeholders that currently want to be part of this process and get involved. One of the proposals being considered is to have member clubs with voting rights, this is in line with sport regulations in other similar national sporting federations.    

Q. What authority does SANPA have over registered players, clubs, venues and organizers?  

A. A National Sporting Federation (NSF), also known as a National Governing Body (NGB), is a sports governing body that has regulatory and sanctioning functions within their country. This includes disciplinary action for rule infractions and deciding on which events are sanctioned. An official NF is recognized by the International Federation (IF) to operate in their country. There is only one official IF for any given sport and only one official NF in each country, as recognized by the IF. 

Q. Why is there a membership cost?  

A. Membership fees cover the overheads of running any organisation. The body has expenses such as Communication, Advertising, Legal fees etc. 

The yearly membership fee, together with all budgets will be prepared by the financial committee and will need to be approved at the AGM through membership voting.  

Members (Venues, Clubs, Event Organisers and Players) will be able to view financial statements to review expenses at the yearly AGM. All of this will be done according to good governance requirements and is aligned with the MOI/Constitution of SANPA. This is how members will also be able to hold its office bearers accountable, which is a critical part of having a national body and ensure that it is built on proper governance and accountability. 

An example of what membership fees could provide; we have received really positive feedback from some SANPA affiliated venues that indicated they will be willing to provide members with discounted rates at their venues and/or are willing to accept SANPA discount vouchers which could be issued to members.  

We are constantly liaising with stakeholders to create more benefits for members that join SANPA. All these additional benefits will be listed on our website when they become available. 

Q. Does SANPA sponsor events for paintball and airsoft?  

A. SANPA does not currently sponsor events, but can assist registered venues, clubs, organizers to connect with relevant stakeholders and corporates for sponsorship. 

Q. Can we play without being associated to SANPA?  

A. A player does not have to be a member to play recreationally, but must become a member to belong to SANPA registered clubs or compete in SANPA sanctioned events. 

Our current interpretation of the restrictive lockdown regulations is that only registered non-contact sports may train and compete. Airsoft and paintball would be considered a recreational activity unless recognised as a sport within the framework of a national sporting governing body. Recreational players therefor face the chance of being on the wrong side of the law.  

However, as a recognised sport, played within the framework of a recognised national sporting governing body players, venues, clubs and event organisers registered with SANPA gain legitimacy by the permissions granted by the Dept of Sport, Art and Culture.

Q. Can a club, venue or organizer host an event without being associated to SANPA?

A. Nothing stops anyone from hosting their own events/games as we live in a free and democratic South Africa.  

SANPA aims to make sure that games/events that are hosted are done so in a safe manner as per the requirements under the Sport and Recreation Act, the Safety at Sports and Recreation Act as well as any other local and international standards that are relevant to our sporting codes. We will continue to assist those organizers, venues and clubs that are registered with SANPA with the relevant information and tools to do this.  

Therefore players that go to events that are SANPA approved can be assured that all safety standards are in place, knowing that the organizer, venue and club providing the activities adhere to any safety and legal requirements in the Republic.  

We do appreciate that some individuals and some clubs or venues have the experience, knowledge and policies to do this by themselves. However, from our research and experience there are those that don’t and this can ultimately cause issues for the sport.  

Our concern is the risk for any venue, club or organizer should something happen and they are not compliant with legal requirements. Possible litigation and a negative reputation for our community can cause serious harm to our sporting codes and everything we are trying to achieve.  

In relation to the lockdown; Our current interpretation of the restrictive lockdown regulations is that only registered non-contact sports may train and compete. Airsoft and paintball would be considered a recreational activity unless recognized as a sport within the framework of a national sporting governing body. Recreational players therefor face the chance of being on the wrong side of the law, I.e. clubs, venues and organizers that are hosting events against current COVID-19 regulations are placing themselves and those attending at risk for possible fines and even criminal offenses.  

SANPA members enjoy the benefit of belonging to recognized sporting body and once all the COVID-19 regulations have been lifted there are still certain legal requirements that any organizer/venue must meet to legally host an event or operate their venue.   Our focus will remain to assist those that belong to SANPA to continue providing them with the relevant information they need to remain legal and in line with all standards, regulations and laws as it pertains to our sport and recreation in the Republic.

Q. Must a club follow specific rules if they belong to SANPA?

A. Clubs will have to indicate in their constitution that they are registered under SANPA and that they will abide by the local and international standards relating to the sport and any other law as per the Republic relating to the sporting code. SANPA will not dictate any rules other than those that are enforceable by law or specific regulations or standards relating to our sporting codes. Therefore, clubs can have their own rules as long as they adhere to the law and standards/regulations relevant to South Africa which will be in line with what SANPA expects as well.

Q. What benefits do players get for being a member of SANPA?  

A. Players would benefit in the following ways; 

  • They get recognized as an athlete that is represented by a governing body.  
  • They have a body where they can raise concerns, request changes etc.  
  • In the current climate, membership certificates legitimize players attending events 
  • Discounts and other benefits at specific venues and businesses. 

Q. If I wait till lock down 1 all this means nothing so why not wait. 

A. Yes, you can, but as SANPA has now been given authority to represent the sport and play with legitimacy before that happens. This is especially important to field owners and businesses that rely on the income generated from recreational and competitive play.  

Q. If the lockdown restrictions are lifted will organizations still need to be registered with SANPA to host games/events?

A. As mentioned above, anyone is free to host games, no one needs or is being forced to belong to SANPA at any time. SANPA will continue to advocate the safety in our sporting codes and will continue to create awareness about what these various safety standards are as per SABS/ASTM standards as well as any regulations pertaining to the sport.  

We will also continue to provide additional benefits for our members through our fields, clubs and vendors that support SANPA. From experience and looking at other sporting codes a lot more can be done for the sport if there is a national governing body relating to being recognized by government as well as providing the correct and relevant information to all stakeholders as well as helping to keep the sport self-regulating. 

Q. Am I expected to simply trust someone I don’t know and never heard of to make decisions for me and us now 

A. A great deal of trust is placed in the committee of any governing body. SANPA understands and adheres to the need for transparency and accountability in all its actions because of this. However, the best measure of SANPA’s integrity is past performance and involvement in organising events and currently, the time and effort it has taken to liaise with Government departments, compile safety policies and standards and lobby on behalf of players and the community. 

Q. Is competitive play possible in the milsim/bushball and airsoft scenes?  

A. Yes it is. Stakeholders, who are members of SANPA can form a committee under the guidance of the chairman to create a competitive framework for such an event. 

Q: Do individual players need to register with SANPA if they want to be recognized as an athlete? 

A. Yes. A player that wants to be recognized as an athlete must be registered with SANPA as a member through a local club. During the interim period players can directly become members with SANPA. 

According to our current interpretation of the Government’s permissions, approved SANPA venues and clubs can only accept players that are SANPA registered at this time as recreation is still not allowed under current regulations of the lockdown.  

SANPA will hold discussions with stakeholders to determine if a MOA/SLA between SANPA and the Venue, Event Organiser or Club would be sufficient to protect and include non-member players under the regulations and permissions. 

The easiest solution currently is that active players must register directly with SANPA. 

Q. How does this effect rentals or new comers during the current lockdown regulations? 

A. Great question, and we’re figuring that out, but from our current understanding of the regulations any form of leisure/recreation activity is still not allowed. Those venues or event organizers hosting these events during the current pandemic is therefore doing so outside the scope of current regulations and can be fined and even receive a criminal record if convicted. Watch this space for updated information.

Q. How will SANPA continue to create awareness for the sporting codes?

Key to moving forward with awareness will be communication. SANPA have tried to reach out to stakeholders in the past that we were aware of, or became aware of through our interactions. There was unfortunately some stakeholders that made it clear they don’t want to deal with or belong to SANPA, without even being willing to join a meeting or open discussion around what SANPA is trying to achieve.  

This is unfortunate, but we respect each individual’s views and decisions regarding this. We would love to work with any likeminded groups and individuals that want to contribute in a meaningful way to build a sporting community that are built on the right values and that puts the safety of its members and the sport first.  

During 2012/2013 SANPA started a campaign where we travelled around South Africa to most of the provinces to make people aware of the organization and what we would like to achieve by taking hands with all stakeholders and creating a national federation that looks after the safety of the sport and its players and assist those that are part of SANPA to comply with local and international standards relating to the sport codes to remain self-regulating.  

Unfortunately most people did not like the amount of paperwork and the administration that goes with good governance and creating safe environments as set out by both national and international standards and local regulations and law, which made our task more difficult. SANPA however kept dealing with any safety issues and assisting those that contacted SANPA over the last 8 years with information about compliance and operating safely prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

We appreciate all those that were willing to assist and do the work as volunteers and give credit to the huge investment with regards to their time, knowledge and experience as well as sometimes personal funding into keeping SANPA going over the last 8 years.

Imagine what can be achieved moving forward if more stakeholders become involved and give constructive input on the way forward and helping us to build something for generations to come.



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