Gideon Khobane:

Su­pers­port CEO breaks down the im­por­tance of the PSL to DSTV

Kick Off - - INSIDE - BY SIBU­SISO MJIKELISO Twit­ter: @Sbu_ Mjikeliso

Born in Springs, Gideon Khobane ma­tric­u­lated at Queen Col­lege, where he spent time do­ing ath­let­ics and play­ing rugby. He played diski for a while but proved rather inept as a striker. His tal­ents, how­ever, lie in the board­room where cru­cial de­ci­sions are made, which de­ter­mine the fu­ture of sport­ing en­ter­tain­ment. “[Be­ing Su­perS­port TV CEO] is an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence and an un­be­liev­able jour­ney. Some­times I don’t be­lieve it my­self … and then I get to the of­fice and see all the work I have to do,” says Khobane, who gave up be­ing M-Net Direc­tor to suc­ceed Im­tiaz Pa­tel as CEO. “Ev­ery­day we look for­ward to the next pro­duc­tion; what’s com­ing up in the fu­ture and how can we do mar­ket­ing for it. We re­cently did plans about the pro­mo­tion of the Floyd May­weather [ver­sus Con­nor McGre­gor] fight.” At just 40 years old, Khobane is one of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the game. His chink in the ar­mour, though, lies, un­sus­pect­ingly, in the teams he sup­ports. He is old enough to re­mem­ber some Dube Birds greats. And since Swal­lows’ demise, all he’s got left are those 1980’s childhood mem­o­ries, which would make for use­ful din­ner ta­ble chitchat across from Phanyaza Le­sufi and his age mates.

“I grew up sup­port­ing Moroka

Swal­lows but I’m on the board of Su­perS­port United,” he says, shyly. “I’m happy be­cause I am al­ways neu­tral when Kaizer Chiefs play Or­lando Pirates. “I love Swal­lows. One of my un­cles was a Swal­lows sup­porter and dur­ing the 80’s he used to take us to watch their games. Swal­lows was big in the 80’s, as big as Chiefs and Pirates are to­day and they were al­ways in the fi­nals [of com­pe­ti­tions]. “I used to watch them and think, ‘What a team!’ I used to see the likes of Thomas Hlongwane, [Joel] ‘Ace’ Mnini and An­dries ‘Chaka-Chaka’ Mpondo. Those were the days man. It’s a cry­ing shame what hap­pened to them.” Su­perS­port prized, ac­ri­mo­niously, the broad­cast rights from pub­lic broad­caster, the SABC, 10 years ago. The ef­fect on the game was pro­found. The PSL prod­uct grew im­mea­sur­ably and DSTV earned more sub­scribers. The game, as we knew it, changed. “The jewel in our crown is the PSL,” says Khobane. “The view­er­ship num­bers for the PSL are un­be­liev­able. On the rest of the con­ti­nent, the English Pre­mier League is num­ber one by far, while the [Uefa] Cham­pi­ons League and La Liga help sell our prod­uct. “We are prob­a­bly the big­gest broad­caster of foot­ball in the world; if not, then we are in the top five. Africans see more EPL matches than any­one else in Eng­land. “I think we do un­der­es­ti­mate how

“I USED TO WATCH [SWAL­LOWS] AND THINK, ‘WHAT A TEAM!’ … THE LIKES OF THOMAS HLONGWANE, [JOEL] ‘ACE’ MNINI AND AN­DRIES ‘CHAKA-CHAKA’ MPONDO.”

pop­u­lar the PSL is. We un­der­es­ti­mate how much the PSL means to a lot of peo­ple in this coun­try. Some­times I’ll look at the view­er­ship fig­ures of a game that doesn’t in­volve Chiefs and Pirates, say, [La­montville Golden] Ar­rows against [Su­perS­port] United, and the num­bers would sur­prise me.”

The per­cep­tion is that the price

of this broad­cast­ing Nir­vana is paid by dwin­dling sta­dium at­ten­dance fig­ures – for games that don’t in­volve Kaizer Chiefs against Or­lando Pirates. Khobane says the prob­lem is far deeper than that. “Broad­cast of matches does take some­thing away,” he ad­mits. “But com­pare the in­fra­struc­ture that is in Ger­many, Spain or Eng­land for peo­ple to get to the game … here a guy from Soweto has to catch a taxi to town be­fore he can catch one to Braam­fontein to watch a Bid­vest Wits game. “What is the fan’s ex­pe­ri­ence like when they want to get to the game, com­pared to coun­tries that have un­der­ground rail sys­tems, like Eng­land? “How is a guy meant to at­tend night games when the trans­port is un­re­li­able? “Also, in Europe peo­ple support their home­town teams. Here the ma­jor­ity are ei­ther Chiefs or Pirates or Mamelodi Sundowns. The fact is, if Su­perS­port United play Ar­rows at Lu­cas Moripe Sta­dium, and the game is not broad­cast on TV, it doesn’t mean peo­ple are go­ing to flood to the sta­dium. There is no cul­ture of home­town support. You can’t ap­por­tion the blame for that to TV.”

“We want peo­ple to be at­tracted

to the ex­pe­ri­ence at the sta­dium, not just to watch reg­u­lar foot­ball. We saw dur­ing the Nedbank Cup fi­nal [be­tween United and Pirates in Dur­ban], where there was a mu­sic concert and ev­ery­thing, that peo­ple en­joyed the full ex­pe­ri­ence. We are work­ing with Absa to bring more in­no­va­tions to im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence. We want to give peo­ple some­thing that’s worth half their day,” Khobane says.

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