TV wars good for SA foot­ball, or are they?

CityPress - - Sport - S’Busiso Mse­leku

The broad­cast deal be­tween the SA Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (Safa) and Siyaya TV ap­pears to have let the cat loose among

the pi­geons.

No sooner was the news out than there was fran­tic move­ment in the soc­cer broad­cast-rights sphere.

First was the SABC, which held an ur­gent meet­ing with Safa a day af­ter City Press broke the story.

Then came a terse state­ment to the ef­fect that the two par­ties had met “to dis­cuss the part­ner­ship that it es­tab­lished many years ago and to iron out some mat­ters re­lat­ing to me­dia re­ports that arose over the past week­end”.

It went on to say the two or­gan­i­sa­tions would “es­tab­lish two groups to dis­cuss mat­ters of op­er­a­tional and le­gal con­cern to both par­ties”. And that those groups would meet the fol­low­ing day “to en­sure that the re­la­tion­ship re­mains on solid ground”.

All the state­ment pointed to was a Faulty Tow­ers or­gan­i­sa­tion in panic mode at the news it would lose one of the jew­els in its crown when the con­tract ends in April next year. But news of how cer­tain rights – such as those for the Fifa World Cup qual­i­fiers and the Africa Cup of Na­tions – rested with so and so, soon fil­tered through.

Since then, there has been a marked in­crease in the num­ber of foot­ball pro­mos on TV. I al­ways find it amus­ing that SABC1 proudly calls it­self “the home of soc­cer”, while Su­perS­port pro­claims it­self the “world of cham­pi­ons”.

The on­go­ing war is good for the con­sumer be­cause it makes foot­ball fa­nat­ics feel like mos­qui­toes in a nud­ist colony – spoilt for choice.

And then, on wel­com­ing Shakes Mashaba as Bafana Bafana coach, Safa pres­i­dent Danny Jor­daan slipped in the news that the ABC Mot­sepe League (sec­ond divi­sion) would go na­tional next sea­son, with matches broad­cast live. The league cham­pi­ons would pocket R1 mil­lion thanks to Safa’s lu­cra­tive deal with Siyaya TV.

Safa’s lat­est broad­cast deal in­cludes the live beam­ing of all its events and com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing Un­der-15 to Un­der-23 provin­cial and na­tional tour­na­ments.

Of course, given the com­pet­i­tive world of foot­ball, the Pre­mier Soc­cer League could not al­low the per­cep­tion it was be­ing left be­hind, an­nounc­ing it had joined forces with its part­ners Su­perS­port to launch an Un­der-19 Re­serve League whose matches will be beamed live by the pay-TV broad­caster.

This an­nounce­ment came shortly af­ter the Dur­ban Un­der-19 In­ter­na­tional Foot­ball Tour­na­ment that fea­tured top in­ter­na­tional sides – such as Santos (Brazil), Feyeno­ord (Nether­lands), Roma (Italy), Ben­fica (Por­tu­gal) and Boca Ju­niors (Ar­gentina) – who bat­tled it out against a KZN Un­der-19 Academy side and the SA na­tional Un­der-19 side.

The pre­sea­son also fea­tured a num­ber of tour­na­ments in­clud­ing the e.tv brain­child, Char­ity Show­down, was beamed live.

All of which means soc­cer broad­cast­ing has just be­come even more fash­ion­able – a must-have if you want to sus­tain your view­er­ship and rel­e­vance as a broad­caster.

Hope­fully, this will al­low the sport to es­tab­lish new av­enues of in­come, which ought to im­prove player wel­fare. But is that go­ing to be the case? Or are the rich sim­ply go­ing to get even richer?

If my ex­pe­ri­ence of foot­ball is any­thing to go by, who­ever came up with the idea that pol­i­tics and sport never mix was high on some­thing. It would ap­pear that some of the lat­est de­vel­op­ments in South African foot­ball are all to do with pol­i­tics and zilch to do with ben­e­fit­ing the game.

But for the sake of our foot­ball, I hope for once I am wrong.

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