HE has a 'thank you' letter of from Nelson Mandela, invented the fanfest, has spent a life in sport, and still plays 11-a-side football at 50, but Tim Cantle-Jones says he is now an entrepreneur.
IN the early 1990s, Tim Cantle-Jones secured a job working for a government body which was created to help South Africa develop a sports administration infrastructure after the ending of apartheid.
This involved three months a year in South Africa working hands-on with the country’s sports bodies to involve the black community and it culminated in Cantle-Jones winning a South African Peacemaker Award in 1995.
This subsequently led to a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man he describes as an amazing character, who was fully aware of the work being carried out by the organisation.
Cantle-Jones then mentions a letter he received from Nelson Mandela, which he has hanging on his wall, acknowledging his achievements.
In typical self-effacing fashion he moves on to other elements of his work in South Africa, before I stop him to probe further.
Unsurprisingly, he has this letter hanging framed on his office wall, he seems genuinely surprised when I ask him to let me see it.
As he takes the letter down from the wall, he laments: “It will be some funeral when he dies.”
He continues: “Our aim was to bring South African sport’s administration up to a level where it would be able to compete internationally.
“South Africa is a sports-mad country and sport was viewed as being a huge factor in reconciliation.
“The letter from Mandela recognised the role we played in helping bring the sport structures up to an acceptable standard. It recognised our work in the training and uplift of black sports’ administrators.”
Cantle-Jones says the most challenging aspect of his four years was dealing with the white-dominated rugby fraternity.
He had to mediate in a dispute involving the emblem that the South African rugby team should wear on its shirts.
With the protea flower being the national symbol, the momentum in the country was to incorporate that onto the nation’s rugby shirt and replace the Springbok.
A compromise was reached and the Springbok rested on a bed of proteas, he explains.
Cantle-Jones says: “Rugby in South Africa had always been an Afrikaner sport and there was a real arrogance about the governing body run by Louis Luyt.”
Luyt is the man who prompted a walk-out by the All Blacks first XV reacting to remarks he made in a post-dinner speech following South Africa’s World Cup win in 1995.
The most thrilling time of his South African experience came at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 when Cantle-Jones was trackside as Elana Meyer won the nation’s first Olympic medal since 1960.
Derartu Tulu’s victory was the first by a black African athlete and Meyer, the silver medal winner, and Tulu draped their respective flags around their shoulders and ran a lap of honour together to massive applause from the crowd.
“It was a symbolic moment in the journey. Meyer’s achievements played a significant part in the reconciliation. I still get goosebumps when I think about it,” said Cantle-Jones.
His next big challenge was getting involved with organising the Euro 96 football experience in Newcastle.
“I had been really stimulated by both South Africa and Barcelona. We became the first city in the world to develop the concept of the fanfest
“We were the only city to embrace football and incorporate it as part of a wider cultural festival including things like street theatre.
“Many cities then, and now, put up big screens for fans, but this was a much wider cultural thing and laid the foundations for the later Capital of Culture bid and 2018 World Cup bid.”