Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter—
AFTER five years of romance, the Premier Soccer League and broadcasting company SuperSport International ended their marriage yesterday with the top-flight body deciding against renewing vows and instead open tenders for new suitors. The decision to look for new partners who will be given the PSL television rights was made at the elite league’s extraordinary meeting in Harare yesterday.
A lot of expectation had been placed on the PSL board of governors led by Dynamos president Kenny Mubaiwa as local clubs seek to reap more rewards from television rights. Although the PSL were not saying much about their broadcast rights deal, the fact that they indicated they were inviting tenders heightened speculation that the league could be angling for an agreement with the new kid on the block — Kwesé Sports.
Kwesé Sports have been making inroads in the region and have been warming up to fans across sub-Saharan Africa through their various platforms and could also be interested in the domestic television rights.
The Econet Media’s sports content platform signed an exclusive one-year deal with COSAFA which commenced last year in November with an option of extension for another two years. The deal includes the broadcast rights for the COSAFA Under-20 Tournament, currently underway in Zambia and the women’s tournament.
But with the SuperSport deal coming to an end, the league’s board of directors instructed the secretariat headed by chief executive Kenny Ndebele to open the doors for new partners. Ndebele confirmed yesterday that the league’s television rights would be put to tender while he also could not rule out a possible re-engagement with SuperSport, who are likely to up their game in light of fresh competition from rivals.
It is understood that SuperSport enjoy the privilege of the first option, creating a window for a fresh deal with the PSL. But if the resurrection from yesterday’s extraordinary meeting is anything to go by, then the league could yet be going into bed with new suitors. “Following the completion of the 2017 season, the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and SuperSport International (Pty) Ltd have mutually agreed to end the partnership entered into by both parties in 2012.
“The five-year relationship has been mutually beneficial to the two organisations. Through its high-quality broadcasting channels, SuperSport has not only enabled PSL to deliver highly entertaining football, but it has exposed the Premier Soccer League and its commercial partners to millions of viewers across the African continent.
“The partnership has positively transformed local football through financial injection that has helped develop the game of football and benefit local clubs to invest in talent and meet some of their day-to-day match expenses. “The partnership also provided a platform for local players to showcase their skills to a wider audience, resulting in a number of them moving to leagues across the region and beyond.
“Further, the relationship has capacitated football administrators and media personnel through training and exchange programmes to improve their skills. “It also provided employment opportunities for the local crew members. We trust there will be opportunities to re-engage in future. Meanwhile, we would like to advise our stakeholders that we will be inviting tenders for the PSL media rights,” said Ndebele.
SuperSport has been credited with bringing a different dispensation to Zimbabwean football which had lacked behind in terms of television coverage. Although the total value of the deal was not clear, sources said clubs were getting a share of approximately $23 400 which came in two batches every season. But fans were not happy with the infrequency of the broadcast of the games as the local league matches would sometimes be frozen from the screen without explanation.
Some clubs also complained that they did not get fair coverage compared to the bigger teams who always draw the limelight. Amid the discrepancies, the big teams have also complained that they deserved a bigger chunk of the financial allocation from the disbursements by SuperSport. However, Delta Beverages, who are sponsors of the league did not mince their words about how they felt concerning the deal.
Delta Corporation marketing director Maxen Karombo told the audience at the Soccer Star awards banquet last week that the league should have a big say in negotiating for a new media rights contract in order to give satisfactory returns to the sponsorship. “Any sponsor dreams of amplification of their property through earned media. We urge the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League leadership to seriously consider putting to open tender the media rights to the league’s matches. We have seen new entrants in the television broadcasting sector as well as live radio streaming.
“The much touted ZBC Digitisation programme should be utilised to provide content to the public broadcaster — bring back Game of the Week and put smiles on our fan base,” said Karombo. The PSL board of directors yesterday responded by discussing the topic at length. Apart from the broadcast rights issue, the league’s chiefs touched on a number of topics that affected the Premiership in 2017. These included violence and hooliganism which marred a number of games with a rise actually being witnessed in the violent incidence at matches.
This resulted in an increased number of abandoned matches, a scenario that does not bode well for a league that is looking for new television partners. Yesterday’s indaba noted with concern that the situation was getting out of hand as clubs have been failing to control the volatile situation despite the heavy sanctions that have sometimes been imposed on them.
Apart from scaring potential sponsors, the disturbances have been blamed for the dwindling numbers of people going to watch football matches. As the PSL governors met for their extraordinary meeting, they also spared some time to exchange notes on the ZIFA annual meeting scheduled for Harare this morning. Despite a bid by former chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze to incite the councillors to reject the staging of the meeting, citing constitutional flaws in the way the indaba was convened, it seems the ZIFA congress ignored the call and will go ahead with the meeting.
Ironically it is Mashingaidze’s fate which could yet be sealed should the assembly decide to deliberate on the life ban imposed on him by the board. The ZIFA board this week banned Mashingaidze from all football activities and the penalty will now have to be ratified by the assembly. ZIFA are also accusing their former chief executive of fraud and theft charges in excess of over $700 000. Item number five of the board agenda is explicit about the “suspension or expulsion of a member.”
ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa will also address the congress while financial statements for 2016 are set to be approved and the 2018 budget tabled. The association’s auditors will also present their report to the congress who will also have to agree on the appointment of the 2017 external auditors.