South Africa: SABC Millions to Clinch Deal on British Soccer Matches

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The dispute over the sale of Premier Soccer League (PSL) broadcasting rights took another twist yesterday when it emerged that the SABC had bought rights to Monday night English Premier League matches for nearly US$40m over the next three years. The deal will see the SABC paying US$13m (R93m) a year for one low-profile English Premier League match a week over the next three years.

While SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago pleaded ignorance and said he was not aware of such a deal, English Premier League chairman Sir David Richards said from England that the public broadcaster had concluded the agreement earlier this year. "Yes, it is true. We have entered into an agreement with the SABC and they will have rights to one premiership match a week for US$10m a year for the next three years." The disclosure will come as a surprise to those who accused the PSL of greed after the league sold the rights to the domestic premiership to pay channel SuperSport International for R1.6bn over five years last week.

Even more shocking is the revelation that the SABC was prepared to pay R93m for a low-profile Monday night English premiership match -- Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool usually play on weekends -- when it had paid the PSL just R67m a year for the entire domestic premiership programme. Richards said he had played an advisory role in the prelude to the sale of the PSL broadcasting rights as he wanted local football to maximise its potential, just as English football did.

In the aftermath of the latest episode in the long-running saga Kganyago said that SABC CEO Dali Mpofu had requested an appointment with PSL chairman, Irvin Khoza to try resolve the broadcast rights impasse. "The CEO (Mpofu) wants to see if this cannot be resolved amicably between the two parties," he said. The SABC seems to have changed its attitude, as Mpofu was confrontational after the PSL awarded the rights to SuperSport last week.

In the meantime, free-to-air channel e.tv has taken advantage of the dispute and managed to secure the rights to televise local football live, with the purchase of the season-opening Telkom Charity Cup this week.

Business Day Johannesburg, 22 June 2007