First casualty of PSL rights row

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

Top sports presenter Robert Marawa was on Monday fired by the SABC, the first known casualty of the PSL television rights saga.

Marawa worked for both SABC and Supersport, the two corporations at the centre of the TV soccer deal row. He was a sports presenter on SABC radio station Metro FM, while also working as a sports presenter for TV pay station Supersport.

The PSL last week awarded the broadcast rights to screen live South African soccer to the pay station, resulting in a bitter row between SABC and Supersport over the deal.

Marawa used his radio show, Sports Discovery Centre, to invite his other boss, Supersport chief executive Imtiaz Patel, and the PSL to defend the billion-rand TV deal, using the platform of rival broadcaster SABC.

According to Sowetan sources, Marawa was fired after a meeting with head of commercial radio at the SABC Bob Mabena and Metro FM programmes manager Leo Manne.

Marawa yesterday confirmed he was dismissed, but declined to talk further about the issue, referring all questions to the SABC.

"It is true I have been told I could no longer present the programme on Metro FM. I do not know the reason for this. Speak to the SABC," he said.

The SABC would not comment yesterday.

The dismissal of Marawa reportedly followed a directive from SABC chief executive Dali Mpofu who is understood to be enraged that the award-winning sports presenter continued to work for Supersport. Sources said the Friday interview with the PSL and winning bidder Supersport was the last straw.

Marawa has always been in this strange position, working for Supersport and Metro FM, housed in rival broadcasting houses.

"The chief executive was not impressed that Marawa's case was clearly a conflict of interests by working for both Metro FM and the SABC's rival, Supersport, and therefore fired him," said a source.

Marawa, who recently relinquished his position as the anchor of SABC1 sport show MTN Soccer Zone, is one of the shining stars of television. He started off as a Simunye "talking head", and progressed steadily to become a respectable sports commentator and presenter on radio and TV, with several sports presentation awards to his name.

His SABC MTN Soccer Zone slot is now occupied by Walter Mokoena.

Marawa is a former law student at the University of the Witwatersrand who abandoned his studies in favour of showbiz.

He was one one the first recruits who added glamour and style to the youthful SABC1 when it relaunched as Simunye.

SABC Chairman Eddie Funde yesterday said: "The board calls upon the PSL leadership to urgently meet the SABC management team to negotiate a settlement to this dispute. We fully support our team in their efforts to represent the best interests of the public broadcaster.

"While we are quite clear about our legal rights, and will vigorously protect the 'sanctity' of our legal contract, the board wishes to see this matter amicably resolved sothe nation's only public broadcaster can exercise its constitutional mandate to promote public access to sports."

l Following Marawa's firing, former presenter Romy Titus has been hosting Metro FM's Sports Discovery Centre. It is not known if this is temporary.