THE South African Premiership, the playground for a number of Zimbabwean football players and coaches, yesterday unveiled a new title sponsor of their cash-rich league with MultiChoice’s DStv coming in to replace banking giant ABSA.
The two parties signed a five-year deal, just three months after ABSA announced they would not continue, as the flagship sponsors of Supa Diski, after spending 13 years as partners.
Zimbabwe international forward, Khama Billiat, headlines the local contingent of footballers, who ply their trade in Supa Diski, while coach, Kaitano Tembo, is in charge of one of the league’s top clubs, SuperSport United.
ABSA’s recent deal with the South African PSL was worth around R140m a year and DStv’s arrival, as the flagship sponsors, will make MultiChoice’s stake in the game even more significant.
Apart from owning SuperSport United, the SuperSport cable sports channels are already the official broadcaster of Supa Diski, providing hugely lucrative rights deals for the league since 2007.
The televised MultiChoice Diski Challenge is also the reserve league of the top-flight league.
There had been reports that DStv’s arrival, as the flagship sponsors of the league, could mean the end of their ownership of SuperSport United with the franchise set to be sold.
However, the club dismissed the reports.
“We have been made aware of the rumours, and speculation, regarding the potential sale of the club,’’ SuperSport United said in a statement.
“These are untrue. We can categorically state that there have been no such approaches and, more importantly, the club is not up for sale.’’
SuperSport United, who recently signed Zimbabwe international goalkeeper, George Chigova, have won the South African league title three times, the Nedbank Cup five times and the MTN8 Cup three times.
Tembo led them to their last victory in the MTN8 Cup last year.
PSL chairman, Irvin Khoza, said the establishment of the DStv Premiership was a natural evolution to the relationship.
“As the PSL continues to innovate, with a quest to improve its product, it will have a full backing of DStv, whose offering require an abundance of local content,’’ Khoza said.
“There is no “them and us,’ we are joined at the hip to produce enhanced consumption of the best product for our deserving supporters.”
MultiChoice Group chief executive, Calvo Mawela, believes the deal 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”, he said. “Whether you are watching the best of local football or the best local entertainment, the passion for both is unmatched.
“As part of this new chapter in South African football, the DStv Premiership strives to reach every community in South Africa, both existing PSL loyalists and emerging new groups.
“Babize Bonke is our call to all South Africans to come together in the experience of a common passion.’’
While, there appears to be no indication, of any immediate problem related to the flagship sponsor of the league also owning a club in the same league, a similar scenario created huge challenges in England just before the turn of the millennium.
BSkyB’s £623 million bid to buy Manchester United was blocked by the Department of Trade and Industry with the then Trade Secretary, Stephen Byers, announcing the decision today after the Government completed their study of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission’s report on the offer.
The MMC completed a five-month inquiry into the proposed deal on March 12, 1999.
“The MMC’s findings are based mainly on competition grounds where they concluded that the merger would adversely affect competition between broadcasters,’’ Byers said.
“But, they also examined wider public interest issues concluding that the merger would damage the quality of British football. I accept these findings.”
Paul Richards, of the Shareholders Against (Robert) Murdoch group, told Sky News: “It’s great news for us as football fans but also football in general.
“Manchester United’s future is pretty well assured as an independent company and an incredibly successful company. We as shareholders have been delighted with the performance of our shares in recent years.
“But it was always difficult to see what BSkyB could bring to the party because the club already had the money to buy players and the commercial arm and brand is one of the most successful in the world.
“I think this has drawn a line in the sand. All those media conglomerates who’ve been planning to take over clubs have to go back to the drawing board.’’
Mark Booth, who was the chief executive of BSkyB back then, said:
“We are disappointed that the Secretary of State has made this decision to prevent the bringing together of two companies whose skills complement each other, and have demonstrated their commitment to football.
“This ruling sets an unfortunate precedent for other British clubs and companies who may have wanted to work together to improve and invest in the future of football.
“This is a bad ruling for British football clubs who will have to compete in Europe against clubs who are backed by successful media companies.
“We wish United every success going forward. We would also like to thank the silent majority of fans and shareholders who have recognised the benefits which BSkyB would bring to their club.”
Another media organisation, cable group NTL, were also forced to abandon their £160m plan to buy Newcastle United following the Government’s decision to block BSkyB’s takeover of Manchester United.
The Sunday Times this week quoted a South African football analyst, Mthulisi Sibanda, questioning Multichoice’s eligibility to sponsor the PSL when they already had a vested interest.
“If DStv do sponsor the league, then it would be a good thing. But there are so many questions than answers,’’ he said. “Would it be fair to have the rights holders sponsoring the league?
“Will SABC or StarSat screen a DStv branded league?
“Would there be no conflict of interest considering that they already have SuperSport United in the league?”
A wrangle over TV rights between SuperSport and the SABC has been a frequent occurrence in South African football over the years.
SuperSport, which has 15 channels on the DStv package, are the main broadcasters of the PSL, having signed a third, five-year deal last year for an undisclosed amount.
The pay-channel reportedly paid R1.6 billion in 2007 for the initial deal and R2 billion for the first renewal.
The South African PSL offers prize money that the majority of African countries can only dream of matching.
In November last year, for the first time in their history, the league declared a record R1 billion in revenue for the 2018/2019 financial year. — Sports Reporter/SuperSport/Sunday Times/The Guardian