SA Rugby, SABC join hands in fight against Openview airing Springboks’ Tests for ‘free’

South African Rugby Union president Mark Alexander, right, sits next to Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus during a press conference. Picture: Rodger Bosch / AFP

South African Rugby Union president Mark Alexander, right, sits next to Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus during a press conference. Picture: Rodger Bosch / AFP

Published Jul 11, 2024


The South African Rugby Union (Saru) sent out a strongly worded statement pledging their support for the SABC following the Springboks’ broadcast rights debacle shortly before the Springboks’ first Test against Ireland.

The SABC’s announced late on Friday that it would no longer be showing the Springboks matches against the Irish.

In a statement the public broadcaster said: “This decision follows the recent urgent litigation at the Competition Appeal Court over the broadcast rights to the Test matches which necessitated the SABC to review its decision to continue with the sub-license Agreement concluded with Multichoice.

“The SABC remains committed to broadcasting sports of national interest. The SABC will always strive to achieve its sports broadcast mandate without compromising its commercial objectives.”

While that SABC statement was rather vague, SARU president Mark Alexander made no bones about the issue.

According to an SA Rugby Union statement “at the core of the issue is a six-month Competition Tribunal order effectively allowing eMedia to broadcast the SABC’s coverage of Springbok matches on their Openview platform without eMedia compensating the SABC, despite the SABC having paid SuperSport for the broadcasting rights.”

Alexander emphasised that while it was his organisation’s desire for Springbok matches to be aired on the national broadcaster, this short-term measure is vital for the long-term viability of the sport.

“This may appear to be a minor and obscure issue to the general public, but it is critically important to the Springboks and the future of rugby in South Africa, affecting not just the broadcasters but the sport itself,” Alexander said in a statement.

“If this six-month order is extended, it would severely undermine the financial model that has enabled us to produce consecutive Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok teams.”

Alexander stressed that an agreement had been reached between SuperSport and the SABC to broadcast the highly-anticipated series against Ireland.

“To be clear, this is not a conflict between SuperSport and the SABC – they had a contract in place to broadcast the matches based on appropriate commercial terms,” he said.

“It was the intervention of eMedia and its demand that OVHD be permitted to broadcast the rugby without any financial contribution by eMedia that put an end to this agreement.

“eMedia’s attempts to put an end to exclusivity in sports broadcasting rights would slash the rights fees, with the sport itself suffering the most, severely impacting our programme delivery from the grassroots level to the back-to-back Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks.”

Alexander explained that SARU was not invited to participate in the proceedings that led to the Tribunal’s order, despite its significant impact on SARU’s sustainability.

“eMedia is a well-funded private company that pays to create television content and purchases content from filmmakers and other broadcasters. It is absurd that they should be allowed to broadcast sport without contributing to its support and development.”