Football TV rights need cool heads
We are a soccer-mad nation.
We may not be world beaters, and it may take our senior national team years to win a major soccer tournament, but there can be no question about our passion for the sport.
It is because of this passion that the Premier Soccer League is one of the most successful on the continent.
This past weekend, thousands of supporters of the beautiful game went out to different venues across the country to watch the opening games of the new season. Millions more watched the exciting matches on television in the comfort of their homes.
Sadly, millions more who also wanted to watch the first matches of the season couldn't because they have no access to pay television.
It was announced, just hours before the opening game between Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United, that the SABC will not broadcast the games after failing to reach a deal with rights owner SuperSport.
According to the public broadcaster, SuperSport wants the SABC to pay R280m for the rights to screen matches this season.
The cash-strapped SABC says it cannot afford this amount, especially because it expects to make only R9,8m revenue from showing the 144 games on its platforms.
The big losers here are the majority of soccer fans who are mostly poor and rely on free-to-air television such as the SABC for their sport.
While we accept that internationally, professional football is sustained and made successful by pay television, we believe that given the economic position of the majority of soccer supporters in SA, the sport cannot do without the public broadcaster.
SuperSport's investment in the PSL has made the league the richest league on the continent. But we should never forget the role played by the SABC in promoting the sport during those years when there was not much money to be made.
These are the reasons we are calling on all the parties involved, the two broadcasters as well as the league, to find a compromise position. They can, for instance, agree to having the SABC show recorded games at a reduced price.
An SABC blackout will exclude the majority and hurt the game in the long run.