Pressing Issues: A serious case of having both hands in the cookie jar

2014-02-14 10:00

Here is a weird but wonderful case of having both hands in the cookie jar.

Just as having a club chairman holding the same position at the Premier Soccer League (PSL) always raises the conflict of interest question, SuperSport owning the league’s broadcast rights while having a club in the same league, was always going to expose the company to a similar situation.

Without a doubt, SuperSport provides top-quality broadcasts of PSL matches but one can’t help detect some bias when SuperSport United is involved. Case in point: last week’s league game against AmaZulu, which United lost 0-1 at home. The commentary was not

balanced during the match and sounded as if SuperSport were playing badly and Usuthu did not deserve the possession they had and the attacks they launched. Credit was not given to the visitors for the good football they played, and worse was still to come.

While only the AmaZulu captain and coach were interviewed, we were then exposed to a string of United’s new signees on top of the coach and captain. They were asked questions like how they were settling in at the club. If you walked in during the postmatch interviews, you would have thought SuperSport won the game.

This really left a bitter taste in the mouth as it robbed AmaZulu their opportunity to celebrate their victory in the glare of the cameras. One must point out that SuperSport has taken football broadcasting in this country to a very high level.

The production is top-notch and I can vouch there is no directive from management stating United should be given preferential treatment. To me, it appears to be a case of some individuals trying very hard to curry favour with management or allowing their judgement to be clouded by the fact that they get their salaries from the same company that owns the club.

Management needs to have a serious look at this as it has the potential to spoil the great work they are doing. And then came Wednesday night’s match between the very same United and Kaizer Chiefs in Polokwane, where an injustice was carried out at the end of the match. Any blind man could see young United goalkeeper Ronwen

Williams was by far the Man of the Match after pulling off several stupendous saves, preventing Amakhosi from adding to their early solitary goal. But when the match was over, the award was given to Bernard Parker, who did very little except score the goal that separated the two sides.

There is a theory this might have been a result of complaints about bias from the previous broadcast, and in a way to try and remedy the situation, this injustice was done to Williams. There is no concrete basis for this argument and it will remain an observation. We are not allowed to assume in our industry, but if this is the case, it would be a very serious matter, as it might have a negative impact on the young man’s self-belief.

He has proved time and again, at the tender age of 22, he is right up there with the likes of Itumeleng Khune. In fact, I can boldly rate him as the number two in the country.

Even during the days when Gavin Hunt was United’s coach, one could pick up this bias in the commentary and during postmatch interviews.

This practice is not good for the other 15 clubs in the PSL. But I doubt they can ever raise their voices in protest given the amount of money they get in monthly grants as a result of the more than R2 billion broadcast deal that was first signed in 2006. So my appeal is to the SuperSport staffers: please don’t spoil a good product, either consciously or subconsciously.

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