The joke’s on the CSA af­ter TV deal stuff-up

Broad­cast­ers set to get new T20 tour­na­ment for free

Sunday Times - - Sport Cricket - By TELFORD VICE

● Cricket South Africa (CSA) are set to give their new T20 tour­na­ment away for free: not once, but twice.

The Sun­day Times un­der­stands that the SABC, which is R1.3-bil­lion in debt, will not pay for the rights to air the com­pe­ti­tion, which was fi­nally un­veiled as the Mzansi Su­per League (MSL) on Fri­day.

As the state broad­caster’s chan­nels are part of the DStv bou­quet, the sub­scrip­tion au­di­ence will also be able to see the matches — at no cost to Su­per­Sport.

And that in the wake of CSA ap­par­ently reneg­ing on an eq­uity agree­ment with Su­per­Sport that would have pumped R150mil­lion a year into cricket’s cof­fers.

On June 8, CSA and Su­per­Sport said they would be “team­ing up to de­liver a world­class T20 com­pe­ti­tion to a South African and global au­di­ence”. The suits fore­cast that the ven­ture would break even in its first year and sub­se­quently earn a small profit.

But, on Au­gust 21, Su­per­Sport’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Gideon Khobane, said they had “de­cided to dis­con­tinue ne­go­ti­a­tions about share­hold­ing”. That was in­ter­preted to mean the net­work had walked away from the deal. The op­po­site would seem to be true.

“Su­per­Sport con­cluded an eq­uity deal with CSA for the new T20 event in prin­ci­ple, but CSA wanted a greater in­vest­ment than orig­i­nally agreed to,” Khobane said this week.

“When that deal fell through, we moved on and dis­cussed a broad­cast re­la­tion­ship. How­ever, CSA’s ask­ing price was again not com­men­su­rate with what Su­per­Sport be­lieved to be fair value.”

It ap­pears CSA and Su­per­Sport op­er­a­tional staff thrashed out an agree­ment, which was scup­pered once CSA’s board got in­volved. Asked for com­ment, CSA avoided con­fir­ma­tion and de­nial: “De­spite good faith ne­go­ti­a­tions, the par­ties failed to reach agree­ment on the ma­te­rial terms of the trans­ac­tion. Nei­ther party re­neged on an ex­ist­ing agree­ment.”

CSA de­clined to shed light on the charge that they were gift­ing their tour­na­ment to the SABC: “As re­gards the terms of the deal with SABC, these are con­fi­den­tial and these con­trac­tual ne­go­ti­a­tions are on­go­ing.”

SABC spokes­woman Neo Mo­modu was on the same blank page: “The de­tails of the agree­ment be­tween the par­ties are con­fi­den­tial and will not be shared pub­licly.”

Su­per­Sport’s con­tract with CSA for all cricket played in South Africa — aside from the MSL — runs un­til 2021.

The broad­caster will likely look to con­tinue the re­la­tion­ship, and seem con­tent to re­gard the T20 episode as an aber­ra­tion.

In­deed, that seemed more cer­tain than the tour­na­ment be­ing played un­til Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment con­firm­ing the league’s ti­tle. The venues were re­vealed on Thurs­day as the Wan­der­ers, Cen­tu­rion, Kingsmead, St George’s Park, New­lands and Boland Park. The names of the teams and the play­ers will, CSA say, fol­low to­mor­row. As yet, there are no signs of spon­sors.

Whis­pers that the tour­na­ment will be post­poned were con­firmed on Fri­day when CSA said it would run from Novem­ber 16 to De­cem­ber 16, and not from Novem­ber 9 as pre­vi­ously stated. That also means the MSL will be seven days shorter than ini­tially ad­ver­tised.

If that sounds fa­mil­iar, it’s be­cause what was sup­posed to be its in­au­gu­ral edi­tion last year was called off.

That cost CSA plenty in terms of the cricket-minded’s pub­lic con­fi­dence in their abil­ity to de­liver the com­pe­ti­tion, and sparked anger among the orig­i­nal fran­chise own­ers — who were told they no longer had a stake in the tour­na­ment and re­funded their de­posits.

The SABC could con­ceiv­ably use the MSL to earn rev­enue, but it seems set to have to spend money to make money.

Whether the cor­po­ra­tion has enough equip­ment and tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise to present the event to the high stan­dard seen in the In­dian Pre­mier League (IPL) and the Big Bash League is de­bat­able.

CSA has said that the Board of Con­trol for Cricket in In­dia has agreed to al­low their of­fi­cials to work on the MSL, but free­lance staff are likely to be re­quired. And cricket’s best pro­duc­tion peo­ple don’t come cheap.

Quite why CSA would turn down Su­per­Sport’s money, hav­ing al­ready spurned the in­vest­ment made by the fran­chise own­ers, re­mains a mys­tery.

An ex­pla­na­tion might be that the board are chas­ing the dream of be­ing less be­holden to the swings and round­abouts of the in­ter­na­tional cal­en­dar’s fund­ing pat­terns.

But, by CSA’s own ad­mis­sion, the MSL will lose R40-mil­lion in its first year.

We don’t know what the teams will be called, who will play for them, in which fix­tures ...

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