JOHANNESBURG – Premier Soccer League chairman Irvin Khoza has threatened that the organisation will shut down the PSL if the proposed Icasa regulations on sport broadcasting are implemented.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) have proposed regulations that seek to end the monopoly SuperSport have on sport broadcasting in the country, by insisting that sporting events of national importance are also available on free-to-air channels.
Previously, the sporting events of national interest referred to national teams and international tournaments like the Olympics, World Cups and the Africa Cup of Nations.
The proposed regulations would also include domestic football – which Khoza argues will lead to the “destruction of professional football” in the country as 80 percent of their funding would be cut.
SuperSport, through broadcasting rights worth billions, is the lifeblood of sport in the country with the money they pump in. No public broadcaster can match what the subscription channel offers financially.
The new regulations intend to ensure that games of “national importance” aren’t exclusively sold to the pay channel.
But it’s that exclusivity that has made SuperSport pay billions of rands for the rights of football, rugby and cricket.
“There can be no justification for cutting our funding,” Khoza said on Tuesday at a hotel at OR Tambo International Airport, after a meeting with the Board of Governors who run the PSL.
“It is a depravation of our property rights. The proposals that have been made are ill-conceived, they aren’t in accord with international or best practices and will ruin our industry.
“We will defend ourselves vigorously against these proposals, using every possible available avenue.
“We will continue until their withdrawal… at the end of the day, if this isn’t resolved, we will shut down the PSL.”
Khoza delivered an emotional speech where he talked about how the PSL was built from the ground to a multi-billion rand industry.
He argued that implementing these regulations would destroy all of that hard work.
Interested stakeholders have until 15 March to make their submissions regarding the proposed regulations.
“Devaluing the broadcaster’s rights offering will snuff the life out of this proposition and funding model. It would be the end of professional football as we know it in our country,” Khoza said.
Football can argue to be a trendsetter in how it balances giving access to football to the majority of the country while also making money from pay TV.
The PSL’s broadcasting rights with SuperSport sees main games – semi-finals, cup finals and the Soweto Derby – also available on the public broadcaster while the pay channel has exclusive rights on most of the games as the main rights holder.
Every game is also available on radio for the majority of the public.
The same can’t be said for domestic rugby and cricket, which are exclusively beamed on the subscription channel.
It’s because of such strides that the PSL has made that Khoza and the Board of Governors feel aggrieved by these proposed regulations.
“This would be warranted if the PSL had been a predatory organisation that has excluded the majority of our people from access to the game,” Khoza said. “The truth is the PSL has been a responsible organisation that self-regulated (for) the inclusive access of the majority.
“It wasn’t done as an act of charity, it made perfect sense. The more people followed the PSL, the more appealing it would be to the sponsors.
“The attractiveness of the PSL to the sponsors has enabled the PSL not to increase gate prizes for over a decade.”