No more cheap seats for Bafana fans

Football supporters will have to fork out more to watch Bafana Bafana, with the South African Football Association announcing that the days of paying less than R50 to watch the national team are over.

Safa lost "a lot of money" arranging pre-World Cup friendlies for Bafana, for which fans paid as little as R30 to watch, but Safa chief executive Leslie Sedibe maintained on Thursday the situation was untenable.

"We can't go on like this," he said. "We want to play against big teams, and they cost big money. At the moment we are arranging matches at a huge loss."

Sedibe was speaking after the announcement of the Bafana squad to face Niger in an African Nations Cup qualifier next weekend in Nelspruit - and even that match, against a side ranked 145th in the world, won't come cheap.

Tickets for the Group 7 clash at the Mbombela Stadium will cost between R50 and R100, depending on whether one prefers to sit on the lower or upper tier.

Sedibe blamed Safa's current deal with the SABC for the high costs of arranging a Bafana fixture, and gave a strong hint that the public broadcaster could lose the broadcast rights if it doesn't come up with an improved offer next year.

"Ideally you should be making money from the TV deal, but that's not the case. The SABC currently pays us a pittance. We have a bizarre situation where we have to pay for broadcast production costs for every match they (SABC) show. It is unheard of," Sedibe said.

The SABC's contract with Safa runs out in April next year, but Sedibe emphasised the public broadcaster will have first preference for renewal, provided it came to the party with more money.

"We prefer the SABC, but there's no doubt that we'll invite other bidders if they can't meet our requirements. Negotiations (with the SABC) will start soon. The reality is that our relationship cannot continue under the terms of the current contract. It costs a lot to hire a stadium, pay both teams and the (Bafana) player bonuses," he said.

Four years ago, the SABC lost the rights to broadcast Premier Soccer League matches to pay channel SuperSport and, if the public broadcaster again fails to come up with a financial plan that satisfies Safa, another bidding war between the channels would be triggered.

Soccer fans now have to bear the immediate brunt of the current deal. They have to fork out more than double what they were paying just a few months ago to watch the national side, and the PSL announced plans last month to increase prices for domestic matches.

Clubs, meanwhile, have been told to charge the normal R20 and R40 until a guideline is communicated to them.

Those who argue that soccer fans are too poor to afford the proposed higher entrance fees were shot down by Safa.

"A rugby fan pays R350 for|a Super 14 ticket - with that you can watch 18 PSL matches. I think we do have emerging football fans who can afford (to pay more)," Sedibe retorted.


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