... they’ve given it away for free
Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced at this week’s Joburg media briefing that the second edition of the Mzansi Super League (MSL) will be screened on the free-to-air broadcaster SABC. At much the same time, the public broadcaster was admitting that they couldn’t show any Premier Soccer League (PSL) football this season because they couldn’t afford to pay for their sub-licensing deal with SuperSport, apologising to fans without Multichoice decoders as they did so.
It beggars belief how, in a cash-strapped situation, CSA can give away their broadcast rights of an important fledgeling tournament to an organisation who probably won’t be able to pay for them.
It seems they don’t value the MSL broadcast rights because, if they did, they would be taking them to market and be attempting to fetch the best price for them.
Instead, they’re saying that they attach no value to their product.
The logical question to ask in this regard, then, is: “If you don’t place any value on the MSL product, why should we, the public?”
All of this takes place against the backdrop of increasing tension between CSA and the players’ union, the SA Players’ Association (SACA). The two are involved in a high court dispute about CSA’s lack of transparency when it comes to the money they are likely to lose in the current four-year (2018 to 2022) budget cycle, with CSA arguing that the loss will be R654 million.
SACA say that the figure of R654 million is grossly inaccurate because it fails to take into account either declining “per match” broadcast rights revenues, or MSL losses (of which the decision to go to the SABC for a second consecutive year is part).
In papers submitted to the South Gauteng High Court in May, SACA estimated that “if the figures for the MSL and these per match values were both included, then the four-year deficit could amount to close to a billion rand”.
They add further: “ and this could well give rise to the future financial collapse of the game of cricket in South Africa”.
The lack of transparency about financial losses is important because CSA are altering the format of the domestic game – a change that will involve job losses for SACA members – and SACA want to know the financial details upon which the decision is founded.
The irony of the whole mess is that the savings via domestic re-structuring will be negligible in relation to savings CSA could make had they applied their mind monetising the MSL. Had they been more pro-active, they would also have predicted a downturn in revenues gained from international broadcast rights sales.
This is because the monies the big television stations have to acquire rights have remained static, while the number of tournaments – particularly lucrative T20 jamborees like the IPL and the Big Bash – have increased, with the T20 tournaments attracting greater revenue.
The last big international broadcast rights deal involving CSA was done under former chief executive Gerald Majola’s stewardship seven years ago. The deal comes up for renewal in the middle of next year and is unlikely to generate as much revenue for CSA as it did then.
Estimates suggest it could be down on the 2012 deal by as much as 30% to 40%, with one of these estimates sought by SACA coming from the very consultant who brokered the CSA through a third-party rights agency.
Whichever way you look at it, there is less money to go round. Last year’s inaugural MSL went ahead without an event sponsor, while none of the six franchises had sponsors either.
The local sponsorship landscape is a difficult one in a sluggish economy but it is difficult to see the second edition of the MSL not being a drain on CSA coffers – exactly as the first one was.
So watch this space.
This particular dispute is only going to get nastier.