Pressing issues: TV wars good for SA football, or are they?

2014-08-22 13:45

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 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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