Safa comments on Icasa's proposed amendments

Bafana Bafana are setting their sights on beating the Black Stars to top spot in the group, in the race to Cameroon

SAFA has taken note of the ICASA proposed amendments to the Sports Broadcasting Services Regulations, and like most sporting federations in the country, cannot agree with the proposals being made by ICASA, and will vehemently oppose them in the current format.

It is common knowledge that sporting federations in South Africa and the world at large, rely on the sale of their broadcast rights to broadcasters, to help sustain their development programs and unfunded projects for the growth of the sport – and SAFA is no different in this respect.

Commercial partners funding is aimed at specific projects, so as an example like SASOL funds BANYANA BANYANA, all such funds have to be used for BANYANA BANYANA.

SAFA has 9 national teams, 10 interprovincial tournaments, 4 regional leagues across 52 regions and 9 provinces, that it is financially responsible for. In addition, critical SAFA supporting elements to the development of the game includes Referee, Coaching and Administrative structures.

SAFA also recently announced the yet to be launched National Women’s League, set to commence in August this year.

The breakdown of operations are as follows:

NATIONAL TEAMS

– Bafana Bafana, partly funded by SAA and CASTLE

– Banyana Banyana, partly funded by SASOL

– u23 Men’s National Team, unfunded

– u20 Men’s National Team, partly funded by Burger King

– u20 Women’s National Team, unfunded

– u17 Men’s National Team, unfunded

– u17 Women’s National Team, unfunded

INTERPROVINCIAL TOURNAMENTS

– u13 boys and girls Interprovincial tournaments, unfunded

– u15 boys and girls Interprovincial tournaments, unfunded

– u17 boys and girls Interprovincial tournaments, unfunded

– u19 boys Interprovincial tournament, funded by Burger King

– u19 girls Interprovincial tournament, unfunded

– Futsal Interprovincial tournament, unfunded

– Beach Soccer Interprovincial tournament, unfunded

REGIONAL LEAGUES

– ABC Motsepe League, partly funded by MOTSEPE Foundation

– SASOL Women’s League, funded by SASOL

– SAB League, funded by SA Breweries

– u19 Women’s Regional League, unfunded

CRITICAL SUPPORTING ELEMENTS

– Referees development, partly funded by OUTsurance

– Coaching development, unfunded

– Administration development, unfunded

 

NATIONAL LEAGUES

– Women’s National League, unfunded

It is therefore patently clear from the above, that out of the 25 critical operational elements that SAFA has to manage daily that effectively constitutes “football” as we know it, only 8 have funding committed to it (albeit partial), by commercial partners – with the remaining 17 needing funding to come from somewhere else.

In SAFA’s case, this funding by and large (probably as close as 80%) comes directly from revenue generated in the sale of broadcast rights. This summary does not even venture into dealing with Schools Football, a very critical element of the development of the game at grassroots level and the hospital development of our youth at an early age.

It is therefore very easy to see that the effects of the proposed ICASA regulations will have a devastating effect on the development and growth of football in this country, if SAFA is prohibited from securing the appropriate market related financial value associated with broadcast rights, from prospective broadcasting partners.

One only has to listen to the Chairperson of the National Soccer League to appreciate the effects it will have on their segment of the game, and when you consider the impact he speaks of and the effects it will have on participants of around 2000 (players), all generally living well above the bread line.

So, if the impact on the National Soccer League will be so great, just imagine the effects on SAFA, whose 3 000 000 plus members, by and large, are either living just on the breadline or generally below the breadline.  Furthermore by virtue of SAFA being listed under Category A: Compulsory Must carry Live and in full; the impact on SAFA commercial program will be even more severe.

It is clear that ICASA have not considered the effects/impacts of this on sporting federations, let alone the broadcaster (and in this case as they wish to dictate the free to air broadcaster). Neither does it seem they have considered the practice of what they propose, or for that matter the actual role players.

Let’s just consider the current landscape of free to air broadcasters in South Africa. There is the SABC and eTV (who in this case does not even have a sports footprint, so one is limited to the SABC by and large).

It is clear that if the SABC was mandated to ensure the live broadcast of the events that ICASA wishes them to broadcast, they would not have sufficient airtime/ TV hours to do all of this as and when they occur (despite having 3 channels), as you can only imagine as happens in our country many times over, that Rugby, Cricket and Football National teams can play at the same time on the same day. Where will the SABC get the necessary infrastructure (camera’s, OB units, vehicles etc) and Human Resources (cameramen/women etc) to produce – just the aforementioned events- live). And if they do acquire these, it would increase their operating expenses more than 3 fold.

It would, therefore, appear that the free to air broadcaster would have to approach the sporting federations to play matches at times which they are not accustomed to, and this then has a further knock-on effect. Fans wanting to attend these events live would be inconvenienced and as such not be able to attend, thus further affecting commercial revenue for the federations as well as the atmosphere at events.

Costs for event staging would go up, as facilities would be required to operate on times/days that they usually do not. Furthermore and quite importantly too, advertising revenue to the broadcaster will be affected, as the TV audience and timing of the event may not be as they have wanted (ie the whole question of prime time viewing and rate card would be affected).

The effects on not wanting to allow sporting federations to negotiate contracts that offer exclusivity to a broadcaster is also absurd, in that the very essence of deriving greater revenue for the rights holder is exactly this offer of exclusivity.

When broadcasters are offered exclusivity by the rights holder, they are able to pay the rights holder a higher fee, as they themselves (the broadcaster) is able to offer advertisers an opportunity of a bigger audience watching their adverts and as such charge these advertisers at a higher rate card. Advertisers see this opportunity of having a greater captive audience, and everyone is happy.

When a product/event is available anywhere and everywhere, it loses its value and does not become commercially viable for the buyer of the rights to exploit in a manner which serves their business or for that matter to pay the value the rights holder attaches to their property.

Ironically, perhaps the greatest unintended consequence of the Regulations is that it will once and for all remove any possibility for the entry of a new Subscription broadcast competitor to the local market – which as we understand it, was one of the main objectives of the Regulations.

Without the possibility of ever securing exclusive broadcast rights (Pay TV & FTA) for the most sought after sports content in the country, the likelihood of growing a subscriber base is severely limited, particularly now when faced with the added competition from the wrath of unregulated global OTT players, such as Netflix, with budgets that dwarf even the largest of players currently in our market.

It is quite significant through all these debates on the proposed ICASA regulations, that the SABC itself has been quite silent on this matter and not expressed a view, much the same for the other free to air broadcaster eTV, but eTV is probably understandable given their non existent sports footprint and moreover because they do not have channel/airtime capacity as matters stand. The SABC have been quite vociferous in their commentary about sports broadcasts, claiming that it costs them millions of rands in displacements costs.

So if they would have to broadcast more sport live, where will they find the airtime / TV hours to broadcast their soapie?

Which again if they are not able to do, will be part of this vicious circle where they lose more money in advertising revenue if they can't show soapies.

It’s also interesting to note that ICASA lists the IAAF in their proposed regulations, so given that the IAAF is not a federation in South Africa, nor is it an event, how do they plan to regulate them, and exactly what will they be regulating?  Another example of ICASA not having thought these proposed regulations through. On the whole, it must be said that the Regulations are poorly drafted and open to varying interpretations.

The fact that ICASA, in the case of football, have listed CAF and FIFA matches down, without clarity of which matches these are, also shows ignorance to the sport. If for example, they remain as broad as it reads now, this would have a negative impact on the very people they wish to support, as the rights would not be of any value  in South Africa, as prospective broadcast buyers of these rights from CAF and or FIFA would not have exclusivity and as such not capitalize on viewership / advertisers and therefore not be in a position to mitigate their rights costs.

There would thus be a strong possibility of these matches/world class events not being shown in South Africa. I am sure that this would the same in the case of the other sporting federations major international world events.

SAFA has over the years been very diligent on compliance with what ICASA had regulated before, ensuring that the masses of our country were able to have access to all of the National Teams and Tournaments. We remain committed to the objective to ensure that the masses will always have access to their national teams as well, but we alone cannot be doing so at the expense of our members, the development of the game and or its growth.

It is well documented that for more than 1 year, SAFA have been in stalled negotiations with the SABC, who refuse to place any market-related value on even our Senior Men’s and Women’s National Football Teams.  Despite the accolades and awards bestowed on Banyana Banyana, the recent home hosted friendlies against Norway and Sweden were once again not broadcast by the SABC- this despite the offer to do so for free, inclusive of production.

Yet the Authority chooses to ignore this fact, refrains from any discussion on commercial realities and instead wished to double down on an already untenable situation.

What is somewhat disappointing, is that ICASA engaged on a roadshow, speaking to a number of stakeholders around their planned proposal – SAFA being one of them – and whilst they came to hear what we had to say, it is clear that they heard or listened to nothing we told them. This is probably much the same with the discussion they had with other stakeholders, judging by the comments being made by other sporting federations.

The proposed regulations in its current format will thus have a drastic effect on sports federations, and SAFA, in particular, will find itself hard-pressed to deliver on its social mandate of growing the game and providing opportunities for the ordinary South African to achieve sporting excellence on the football field, and or more importantly, it will not be in a position to provide career/employment opportunities that football offers through becoming professional football players, coaching, refereeing, administration of clubs etc