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Safa-SABC war heads to parliament

Sports portfolio committee will be asked to intervene in battle over Bafana Bafana TV rights

21 October 2018 - 00:04 By MNINAWA NTLOKO

South African Football Association (Safa) officials are heading to parliament in the coming days to ask the sports portfolio committee to release Bafana Bafana and Banyana Banyana from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) stipulation that binds the two national teams to the SABC.
Icasa classifies Bafana and Banyana games as national interest events that have to be broadcast on free-to-air TV, but relations between Safa and the cash-strapped SABC have deteriorated after the two parties reached an impasse over TV rights.
The public broadcaster is paying about R235m for Confederation of African Football (Caf) rights outside the country while offering Safa "a paltry R10m" to renew the rights that expired in April.
Acting Safa CEO Russell Paul told the Sunday Times that the R10m "take it or leave it offer" was astonishing. He said the SABC had no problem "using taxpayer's money" to pay an exorbitant amount to a foreign company.
Safa was seeking R200m a year from the SABC but was prepared to accept the R110m a year it earned under the old agreement. The Safa broadcast package includes Bafana, Banyana, junior national teams, ABC Motsepe League and the Nelson Mandela Challenge, among other matches.
Paul said he could not confirm the amount the SABC was paying Caf, "but I can assure you that it is far greater than the R110m we are asking for".
"What we find surprising is that they are willing to part with that kind of money, take taxpayers' money abroad, because Lagardere (the Caf broadcast rights holders) is a foreign company, and pay that to foreign companies."
In a written response, SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu denied the R235m amount but said the broadcaster would make a submission if it were asked.
"If the SABC is requested to provide submissions by its regulator in this regard, it will do so," she said yesterday.
Icasa could not be reached for comment.
Paul said while Safa understood that the nation needed to be able to see Bafana and Banyana on free-to-air TV, the situation was untenable and it had told the communications and the sports ministries of its plans to kick the SABC to the curb.
"We said, guys, if it's a problem for the public broadcaster to be able to pay for this, then remove us from this thing (the Icasa stipulation) so that we can then exploit our rights commercially in the same manner as rugby and cricket," Paul said.
"Rugby is getting something like R670m for broadcast rights and cricket is getting over R200m. Those are not figures we are sucking out of the air, those are in their financial reports which they have declared."
The standoff has served to unify Safa and the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
The SABC can expect a fightback from PSL chairman Irvin Khoza and Safa president Danny Jordaan in the coming days. Besides the standoff over Bafana broadcast rights, the public broadcaster further infuriated both organisations when it started to broadcast English Premier League matches at the same time as local Absa premiership games a few weeks ago.
The decision is viewed as a threat to the value of the Absa premiership and its sponsors. The broadcast of English Premier League matches has stirred a hornet's nest. The SABC was also at the centre of a heated two-hour discussion at the association's ordinary council meeting held at Safa House a week ago.
Paul confirmed the discussion and said Safa would tackle the SABC from a united position. "We had a council meeting on October 13 and it was refreshing to note the unity that exists regarding this SABC matter and football properties in general between Safa and its special member, the National Soccer League, so much so that there has been common ground established," he said...

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