Jaws dropped on Tuesday after the cash-strapped SABC announced that it would start broadcasting live matches of the English Premier League on Saturday afternoons.
The announcement came just hours after the SABC board told Parliament that the public broadcaster is in an awful financial state and unable to meet certain obligations.
Briefing the Portfolio Committee on Sports in Parliament on Tuesday‚ the SABC board chairman Bongumusa Makhathini revealed that projections for the end of August are that the national broadcaster will only have R26-million in the bank while it owes creditors a staggering R694-million.
Newly appointed SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu defended the decision and said the decision to broadcast English Premier League matches is actually aimed at turning the national broadcaster around.
“I can’t talk to you about the financials and how much the deal cost at this pointing time because I have not had an opportunity to familiarize myself with it‚ but I will in the coming days. We’re turning the corner now and we’ve got a leadership that has got integrity and one that puts the interest of the public and the organisation first‚” Momodu told SowetanLIVE on Tuesday.
Momodu‚ who replaced Kaizer Kganyago as spokesperson last week‚ also added that the SABC has sub-contracted the rights to show the live English Premier League matches to Kwese Sports.
“From an integrity point of view‚ I can assure you that whatever that has been entered into with Kwese is in line with corporate governance and also bearing in mind the dire financial situation we find ourselves in. We put measures in place to make sure that people that sign relevant documents internally are not going to go against the prescribes and what the board said is fine to do and not to do.”
The SABC's announcement comes just days after it emerged that Bafana Bafana’s next official games may not be broadcast as a result of the cash crisis at Auckland Park.
Safa revealed that the public broadcaster‚ which reported a net loss of almost R1bn in the 2016/2017 financial year‚ has failed to honour its financial obligations for several months and owes the football body more than R50m.
Momodu said the SABC is in talks with relevant parties to ensure that national team matches are beamed live on the national broadcaster’s platforms.
“The SABC is engaging with a number of partners including Safa and the PSL. Conversations with Safa are ongoing and once there is an agreement to be reached the public will be first to know. We need to remain competitive and therefore bring programming that will enable us to attract audiences and offers services to the SA public, one that they actually deserve. As you know the EPL you either have to subscribe to certain device to access it and if you cant afford it then you wont able to watch. So as the public broadcaster we’re going out of our way to make sure that all South Africans got access to this programming (EPL)," Momodu told SowetanLIVE.
The SABC will broadcast one Premier League match on Saturdays at 4pm for the rest of the season starting with Saturday’s London derby between Arsenal and West Ham United‚ according to a statement released by the SABC.
Viewers will be able to catch the preview of all the weekend's Premier League fixtures with the Premier League Preview Show on Saturdays at 3pm‚ followed by a live studio build up at 3.30pm before the live match kick-off at 4pm on SABC 3.
There will also be a Premier League Review Show what will showcase all the highlights‚ goals and post-match interviews every Tuesday at 11.30pm as part of the deal.
“SABC 3 is going to provide South Africans who love sports and in particular‚ soccer‚ the opportunity to access some of the greatest teams in the world in one of the biggest leagues globally for free. The Premier League has a strong brand equity that we believe will contribute towards the building of the SABC 3 brand.” said SABC TV Channels general manager David Makubyane.