Home Sport Soccer Icasa move set to topple South Africa’s sports cart

Icasa move set to topple South Africa’s sports cart

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The Icasa proposals, as contained on their website, are voluminous and show some deep level of research has gone into it

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The recent measures proposed by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) regarding the distribution and sharing of broadcast rights of national sports events have raised the hackles at Safa House and the Premier Soccer League.

It would be well for all couch football followers to acquaint themselves with the Icasa proposals as it would, when implemented, greatly change the way they consume games being broadcast especially via television.

Never before have proposals regarding football been so hotly received and almost summarily rejected since the days of the defunct National Professional Soccer League. Then, as now, none other than the Iron Duke, aka Irvin Khoza himself, led the charge. And back then he and his crew emerged victorious.

Without repeating the whole sorry history here safe to say that at the time many years ago there were two camps within the NPSL which had different points of view as to where the political allegiances of the football organising body should be.

Khoza, supported by Kaizer Motaung, made known their choice, stuck to it and it was later the one preferred and endorsed by all. Such is the charisma and force of character of the man.

Now the Icasa proposals, as contained on their website, are voluminous and show some deep level of research has gone into it. What they amount to, as repeated in the press, is to the effect that the sports federations, in this case the Premier Soccer League as well as Safa who own the broadcast rights of all professional football matches, must ensure that the broadcasts are shared among all broadcasters, be they public or private.

Further, that all national team games be carried live by all broadcasters.

Safa and the PSL have objected to this. They argue that it is going to reduce their bargaining power with broadcasters. Safa and the PSL argue that broadcasters will want to pay less for broadcast rights which are not exclusive.

Once the federations cannot make enough money from the games that are broadcast they will, in turn cut, costs meaning less revenue will flow to the clubs. When it gets to that level it is not a stretch to realise that many professional clubs will fold.

Remember too that there is no wholesale state support for sports federations in South Africa apart from the token grant money given here and there to a particular federation for a specific event. All sports organisations have to, by and large, find money on their own.

Also, punters have pointed out to Icasa that some of its proposals are downright impractical. This relates to the proposal that all national team games must be broadcast live.

The punters point out that in South Africa’s case all three national sports federations for soccer, rugby and cricket sometimes have games on the go at the same time. When that happens the particular broadcaster’s technical and human resources to deliver on this proposal will come up short.

Icasa need not have to search very far and long to note what effects the loss of money has on a particular broadcaster. Right now the only real and live broadcaster of sports events is the SABC followed a distant second by MultiChoice. E-tv, the free-to-air channel, has no sports programming of its own.

The recent management troubles at the national broadcaster have bankrupted that organisation to the extent that it has cut back on live sports broadcasts. It has also planned but later shelved staff cutbacks in a bid to remain as a going concern.

Now add to that a broadcaster’s regulated inability to ask the right prize for their product then you have the makings of the death of professional sports in general.

To yours truly’s mind this looks like the sports version of the expropriation of broadcast rights without compensation.