Free-to-air TV sport ‘will kill pro rugby in five years’
SA Rugby and Boxing SA say forcing them to give up exclusivity rights would sound the death knell for their codes
Professional rugby in SA will be dead within five years if proposed new sport broadcasting regulations are implemented, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux warned on Tuesday.
SA Rugby and Boxing SA put up a strong and united front to oppose the regulations by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa). Icasa has declared its intention to amend the sport broadcasting regulations of sporting events that are of national importance to receive full live coverage on free-to-air.
But major sporting federations told the hearings in Centurion that the move will kill their respective sporting codes if they proceed in their current form.
Roux strongly argued that the proposed regulations, if implemented, will lead to SA Rugby’s closure within five years and leave SA with no professional rugby.
“Exclusivity is key in sport and the current regulations strike a good balance – but at this rate there won’t be sport in five years and there won’t be the Springboks,” said Roux.
Roux said a big chunk of SA Rugby’s revenue is derived from broadcasting rights because broadcasters are prepared to pay a premium to exclusively access content. He said 57% of its revenue comes from broadcasting, 26% from sponsorship and 17% from Tests, events and grants.
“Rugby is a business. We don’t receive money from government (0.3% of revenue to be fair), we don’t have charitable status and we have zero donors. We don’t have a rich uncle or a trust fund, we don’t pay dividends or pay profits for shareholders. Income we earn is reinvested for the benefit of rugby and South Africans,” said Roux.
“Sponsorships will never cover the value of broadcasting revenue, and without income and funding we will have no sport. Our plea is to protect the sport which is a national asset because it will not survive. We will not have funding to start grassroots projects. In sport around the world, exclusivity is the basis on which rights are sold.”
Boxing SA CEO Tsholofelo Lejaka said it was concerned that, in their present form, the regulations fail to prove they will grow the sport.
“Unfortunately, in their current configuration, the draft regulations might fail to unleash the true potential of sport broadcasting to grow our programmes, catalyse excellence, and project our sport narrative to society,” said Lejaka.
“These regulations have some worrying areas which might lead to detrimental and unintended consequences for the boxing sector. Both on procedural and substantive paradigms the draft amendments require urgent review if they are to do justice to what we believe to be the objectives for review in the very first place,” said Lejaka.
SA Rugby and Boxing SA will be joined this week at the hearings by the Premier Soccer League, Hockey SA, Netball SA, the SA Football Association, and the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.
Palesa Kadi, the chairperson of the hearings, said she was surprised by the strong arguments from federations about the proposed regulations.
“It is surprising because everyone talks about the Constitution for access matters but now they are bending towards issues of trade as an interest. Ours is the mandate of the public, as with any other constitutional or regulatory body,” said Kadi.
“We are seeking a balance between revenue and access to sports by all South Africans. It is also to list developmental and minority sports so that we are able to have a broader spectrum of sports for all South Africans. We are aware that this is highly contested in terms of views and we are here to analyse, listen to all the critics and also find a position for the regulator.”