South Africa’s top flight football league finally has a new headline sponsor following the exit of Absa earlier this year. It will now be known as the DStv Premiership after broadcasting company MultiChoice took over the reins.
Local football fans who depend on the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to watch or listen to Premier Soccer League (PSL) games need not worry about losing out on their viewership or listenership privileges now that MultiChoice has officially taken over from banking juggernaut Absa.
“Today it is very important to clarify to members of the public that by having the DStv Premiership, or DStv as sponsor… DStv is just an event’s sponsor. In terms of the rights allocation, the category of rights remains the same.
“Anyone who wants to see television [sic] on the free-to-air, we’ll distribute those games in terms of the agreement that we entered into… nothing will change,” said PSL chairman Irvin Khoza.
Khoza was speaking on Thursday evening at the event where it was officially announced that DStv would replace Absa as the tagline sponsor. The banking group announced in June 2020 that it would cut its 13-year ties with the PSL’s premier division at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season. It cited the country’s waning economy as one of the main reasons for the divorce.
At the beginning of the 2019/20 season, there were no local football matches broadcast on SABC television and radio as they had failed to agree terms with MultiChoice, who hold exclusive broadcast rights to PSL games. This left millions of South Africans who depend on the public broadcaster frustrated for the first few weeks of the season, and the government had to eventually intervene.
Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa, together with communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, brought all three parties (PSL, MultiChoice and SABC) to the table and an amicable decision was reached for games to return to SABC platforms. The agreement will see the public broadcaster shell out R280-million a year, for 144 matches, over a five-year period.
Considering this history, as well as the extensively documented financial struggles of the public broadcaster over the years, there is a fear that with MultiChoice now flexing their muscles as a key stakeholder in South African football, local soccer fans might find themselves out in the cold. Khoza, however, moved to assure the public that this would not happen.
“What is important is to maintain and make sure that access to our content is affordable, and DStv has made sure that is maintained for the sake of supporters. So, I’m happy to give assurance to the public that as much as DStv is a sponsor, it must not cut out the free-to-air channels from seeing our content.
“All the viewers in South Africa, whether they depend on DStv or depend on free-to-air, will have the kind of approach as the previous rights, when we had the original sponsors,” Khoza stated.
MultiChoice Group CEO, Calvo Mawela, believes the deal between DStv and the PSL speaks to the essence of who and what the two organisations represent.
“The DStv Premiership is the coming together of two brands that connect South Africans emotionally,” said Mawela. “Whether you are watching the best of local football or the best local entertainment, the passion for both is unmatched.”
It is still unclear what will happen with the top flight’s reserve league, the MultiChoice Diski Challenge (MDC), but the broadcaster said announcements were imminent.
There are also questions around premiership club SuperSport United, which is owned by the MultiChoice group. The club put out a statement earlier this week, denying reports that it was up for sale.
“SuperSport United has been made aware of the rumours and speculation regarding the potential sale of the club‚” the statement read. “These are untrue. SuperSport United can categorically state that there have been no such approaches and‚ more importantly‚ the club is not up for sale.”
Khoza is expected to address all these questions next week, after the PSL’s executive committee meeting on Tuesday. Also on the agenda will be the monetary value of the sponsorship deal, as well as the setting of the commencement date for the league. It was initially pencilled in for 9 October, but Fifa has since deemed that period an international week. The PSL will now have to come up with a new date.
“We have an urgent meeting on Tuesday to decide a commencement date. In that discussion we must also come up with the prize money, because I think the public is waiting to understand what will be the prize money for this new competition.
“Then we’re going to set the date of the announcement of the fixtures, and also the release of the commencement date of the new season,” said Khoza. DM