The chairperson of the Premier Soccer League, Irvin Khoza, says the continued existence of professional football in South Africa is threatened. Khoza says if the new Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) regulations come into law and all football broadcast rights in the country become free of charge, the sport’s revenue will be reduced by at least 80%. Khoza added that this would put professional football in the country at great risk. The PSL will oppose the proposed amendments and has until March to give its input.
Currently, MultiChoice is enjoying a monopoly on sports rights, with most high profile sporting codes only available on the pay channel, but this could all change if the draft regulations become law.
Khoza says most clubs will cease to exist without sponsorship as they rely solely on the monthly grants from the league.
“At the end of the day, if it’s not resolved, we shut down the PSL because we must not be blamed for consequences we cannot explain. After 1985 when we transformed professional football, in 1996 we positioned NSL to PSL and to make sure we make it relevant, we make it exciting. Not everybody is fortunate to have deep pockets or sponsorship, what do we do? So we strategised and see how best can we create value out of our content.”
Khoza says it’s unacceptable to include professional football in the category of sports of national interest that should be accessible to everyone on free to air. Khoza says, without enough income, clubs will be forced to drop their salaries.
“There’s no country in the continent that gives grants, in some of the countries in Europe they don’t give grants. We started by a million rand a year, and thereafter it has grown. All the clubs are depending on that income. If you don’t have that income how do you justify and say to the players I’m going to pay you when you don’t mean it. Therefore it’s very important to shut it down; we are forced to shut it down. It’s not our option; we are forced to shut it down.”
Khoza says they are prepared to discuss the matter further with relevant authorities before the law is passed.
“We had discussions with government through political parties it was a very positive discussion we made them aware that there are these challenges. That’s why we are saying it’s only fair to go back to them, there’s an open door policy they gave us, engage them, discuss these things so it’s fair to go back and engage them. If nothing happens, we must shut it down because we can’t justify co-existence, it will be a lie.”
Khoza says the PSL Board of Governors and the executive committee don’t understand why professional football was included on the list of Icasa as a sport of national interest.
“But what strikes us this time is that you know professional football was never listed. In the UK it’s never listed, it’s called premium content because of its attractiveness. You cannot call it a national interest game. National interests are about national teams, Fifa events, CAF games, Afcon games, those are national events. Olympics, Commonwealth Games, but not professional football, this is domestic.”
Icasa hopes the process to review the broadcast regulations will be finalised by the end of March.