By Stu Robarts
Saturday’s final of the Caf Champions League, Africa's top soccer clubs competition, was shown live in South Africa by both pay-TV operator SuperSport and free-to-air broadcaster SABC after an 11th hour agreement was reached between the pair and the Confederation of African Football.
Al Ahly of Egypt ran out 3-0 winners against South Africa's Kaizer Chiefs in the match in Casablanca in Morocco.
Last Wednesday, SuperSport announced it had acquired rights across Africa to the the final.
However, this prompted an angry response from SABC, which claimed that Caf had awarded exclusive rights to SuperSport in South Africa despite it having met the asking price for free-to-air rights.
SABC claimed the Caf was wrong to deny fans the opportunity to watch the game on a free-to-air platform.
In a statement on Friday, the public broadcaster said: "The SABC was surprised and disappointed to learn yesterday that Caf had sold the exclusive rights to broadcast the final to the pay-TV broadcaster, SuperSport.
“Despite the SABC meeting the Caf’s asking price for the free-to-air rights, the offer was rejected on the basis that Caf has signed an exclusive deal with SuperSport that covers all rights, including the free-to-air rights, for this match. The agreement between Caf and SuperSport is wrong as it places this showpiece of African club football behind a pay-wall, effectively denying millions of South African football fans the opportunity to watch the game.”
The statement went on to argue that information about the Caf-SuperSport deal had been withheld until Thursday, and that it should be shown free-to-air due to it being Kaizer Chiefs' first appearance in the Champions League final, the present turbulent political situation in South Africa and the fact that SABC had reached out to Caf to try and resolve the issue.
SuperSport confirmed to GlobalData that talks were ongoing and in a statement issued on Friday evening, Jabavu Heshu, group executive for corporate affairs at Multichoice Group, which owns the pay-TV broadcaster, announced that Caf had allowed SuperSport to sub-license rights to SABC, meaning it would be shown free-to-air in South Africa.
Heshu said: “MultiChoice has, however, noted with disappointment the media statement issued by the SABC earlier today in respect of this fixture including disparaging and factually incorrect remarks made regarding MultiChoice and the rights it acquired.
“Having regard to the very sad circumstances which have played out in the country during the past week and the need for the upliftment of the public in these difficult times, the ministers of sport, arts and recreation and of communications have been in contact with MultiChoice requesting an intervention in order that the match be made available to the public on a free-to-air basis.”
The rights were said to have been sub-licensed to the SABC “on mutually agreed commercial terms".
Prior to the final, matches in the 2020-21 Champions League had not been shown on either SuperSport or SABC, with fans largely having to make do with coverage on club social media pages.
SuperSport stopped broadcasting Caf matches in late 2019 because of a contract dispute.
Caf had terminated a 12-year, $1 billion broadcast and sponsorship rights deal with Lagardere Sports, now Sportfive, which was due to run to 2028.
SuperSport had concluded that its deal for Caf club and national teams competitions such as the Africa Cup of Nations was null and void in the wake of the confederation's decision to scrap the agreement.