How Downs lost out

A SCHEDULING dilemma from SuperSport and alleged lack of funds from the SABC led to two of South Africa's prominent broadcasters snubbing the clash of giants between Mamelodi Sundowns and TP Mazembe on Saturday.

Sundowns officials said they had tried in vain to convince the heavyweight channels to broadcast their CAF Champions League first-round, first-leg tie against the Democratic Republic of Congo giants at Loftus Stadium.

Instead, the Multichoice-owned SuperSport televises games involving Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, who were also involved in continental championships on Saturday.

The SABC pleaded poverty, according to Sundowns communication and marketing manager Joe Latakgomo. He said the public broadcaster would have agreed to show the massive fixture if the club covered their production costs. Production costs usually amount to between R4-million and R6-million.

Latakgomo said: "SuperSport had a scheduling problem, while the SABC told us right from the beginning that they would not have the budget to broadcast any of our [Champions League] games, and this was before our match against St Michel. SuperSport were able to show our home match against St Michel, but at the weekend they had a lot of games. So they requested that we move our game to a 5pm kickoff or to Friday or even Sunday. But our technical team felt that would not be the best arrangement."

The match was played at 7pm on Saturday and ended 1-0 in favour of Sundowns. Latakgomo said suggestions that the club wanted to financially benefit from hosting Mazembe in their backyard were "rubbish".

Asked about their failure to televise what was perhaps the most attractive fixture on the CAF Champions League calendar at the weekend, SuperSport claimed the ball was always in Downs' court.

"It wasn't a question of choosing one team over the other," said SuperSport spokesman Clinton van der Berg.

"SuperSport made every effort to engage Sundowns on the matter. Despite our busy weekend for our outside broadcast units, we recommended a number of reasonable kickoff times, but [coach] Pitso [Mosimane] flatly refused to budge." The SABC was approached for comment, but had not given their side of the story at the time of going to print.