SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 10: (SOUTH AFRICA
Richard Branson takes part in an aerobics class at the grand opening of the Virgin Active club at Maponya Mall in Soweto, in December 2011. (Photo by Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
  • Gym giant Virgin Active says South Africa doesn't need a proposed Fitness Industry Regulatory Authority – and consumers shouldn't have to pay for it.
  • The government is proposing a specialist regulator with the ability to accredit personal trainers and gyms, and shut them down.
  • But the idea is "unprecedented internationally", Virgin Active says, and self-regulation plus enforcing existing laws is a better idea.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.


South Africa does not need a fitness regulator, gym giant Virgin Active South Africa says, and consumers shouldn't have to pay for "further unneeded government regulation".

The company, which operates 136 gyms and says it has 800,000 members in South Africa, published the broad strokes of its objection to new legislation that is currently in draft form.

The National Sport and Recreation Amendment Bill proposes giving the minister of sport more direct control of sporting codes, seeks to create new sporting bodies (including one to regulate "combat sport") – and would create a Fitness Industry Regulatory Authority.

See also: Gyms and fitness trainers will be government regulated – and can be shut down – under a new draft plan

That body would have dominion over anyone who helps others get and stay fit in exchange for money, and the power to classify and close down anything resembling a gym. 

Why, exactly, gyms would be closed down is not clear from the draft legislation, but the implication is that the regulator would be concerned primarily with safety.

Such a body would be "unprecedented internationally", Virgin Active says, and is unnecessary.

"There already exist numerous other laws which comprehensively govern the industry and protect the consumer," Virgin Active said in a statement on its submission about the draft law.

"Industry specific regulation provides no additional value to the consumer or the industry, but will instead add more cost for government, the industry, the individuals that operate within the industry, and ultimately the consumer."

The company argues that smaller operators in particular will suffer from an administrative burden under the proposal. It also says government should be encouraging investment in the fitness field, to counter a rise in lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

It wants self-regulation instead, "combined with proper enforcement by existing state agencies of legislation already in place".

Virgin Active did not say whether it had commented on the proposal that the fitness regulator create a dispute-resolution mechanisms, which is anticipated to deal with complaints that difficulties cancelling gym contracts.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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