SAFA slams SABC for 'discourteous' and 'miniscule' rights offer
The South African Football Association, the governing body for soccer in the country, announced today that the national team's forthcoming matches will not be shown on SABC, after the public-service broadcaster made what was regarded as an inadequate offer for the rights.
SAFA revealed it has been in talks with SABC for 12 months about a renewal "on similar terms and conditions as the immediate past agreement," which expired this April.
However, it said SABC's "discourteous offer" was "so minuscule that it amounts to an effective no offer", and alleged the broadcaster is trying to "engineer the financial downfall" of the federation.
Bafana Bafana, the men's national team, face home and away 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Seychelles on 13 and 16 October respectively, and then play Nigeria on 13 November.
As it stands, none of those games will be available free-to-air in South Africa.
SAFA revealed in August that it expects to incur losses of around R20 million ($1.4 million) in the financial year ending 30 June, and laid much of the blame at the door of the SABC. According to the soccer body, SABC was contracted to pay it R10 million a month in rights fees from the previous deal, but had not done so for several months, and the outstanding bill is now in excess of R50 million.
SAFA was particularly enraged in August when SABC, which has pleaded poverty in rights negotiations, acquired rights to show one match per week from English soccer's Premier League in a sub-licensing deal with Kwesé Sports, the Econet-owned pan-African sports network.
That announcement came just hours after the SABC board told parliament that the public broadcaster's finances were in such a state that it was unable to meet certain obligations. SABC chairman Bongumusa Makhathini revealed that projections for the end of August were that the broadcaster would only have R26 million in the bank, while it owes creditors R694 million.
Just last month, SABC was unveiled as the rights-holder of Cricket South Africa's new domestic Twenty20 competition, which begins in November.
SAFA said in a statement today: "SAFA has been repeatedly told by SABC management that it is in no position to conclude a contract /contracts whilst it is in a financial state of disarray. However, it is now patently clear that the SABC actions over the past few weeks in signing deals with EPL and CSA, is calculated towards engineering the financial downfall of SAFA, which the association will not stand for.
"It is common cause that there is no other sport in South Africa that draws a larger TV audience attendance than Bafana Bafana – in excess of 4,000,000 viewers regularly."
SAFA chief executive Dennis Mumble had already warned of a free-to-air blackout for South Africa's AFCON qualifier against Libya in September, but in the end the federation allowed SABC to broadcast the game "despite there being no contract in place – but on the promise and agreement that a contract would be concluded" prior to the Seychelles game this Saturday.
SAFA has now called on South Africa's ministry of sport and recreation and ministry of communications to "relieve the SABC of its obligations towards sports of national interest (football in particular) which would consequently allow SAFA to conclude an agreement with another broadcaster for the SAFA rights in line with the commercial value SAFA attributes to such rights."