Where is Supersport?

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Two weeks before the start of the 2012 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season, there is still no news of the television rights deal with Supersport International despite assurances an agreement would be reached before the season starts.

Today, the PSL chiefs start a strategic planning workshop in Harare which will be followed by the clubs’ annual general meeting on Saturday with the clubs expecting to be briefed extensively on the Supersport deal.

There are no problems with the NetOne Charity Shield, which will be launched next week and will feature Dynamos and Motor Action in the season opener, nor the BancABC Sup8r Cup and the Mbada Diamonds Cup which have all been confirmed for the new season.

But with the Supersport deal hanging in the balance, sources told NewsDay Sport yesterday that the PSL’s decision to ignore Malawian agent Felix Sapao has been real cause of the delay.

Sapao facilitated the first meeting between PSL and Supersport Head of Africa Gary Rathbone last year and this resulted in two test matches being covered: the league match between Dynamos and Motor Action and the Mbada Diamonds Cup final between the two teams in November.

The league then prepared a report for Supersport while the satellite services provider also gave its own assessment of the two events and how the two parties can move forward to tie up a deal.

Rathbone is largely credited with playing a significant role in developing the Supersport brand on the football markets of South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and lately Zambia. Clubs benefit through monthly grants paid by the service provider to the respective league and they use this money to finance their day to day operations.

“It was a good idea to have Sapao in the deal, but I think greed got into the way of some of our management members. They want to benefit personally and get bonuses for pushing the deal like what happened in South Africa.

“But the problem is Supersport has been talking to Sapao and they want to know why he is no longer in the deal before talks can proceed.

“At the end of the day, the clubs will suffer because this is for the clubs and fans and not administrators,” sources said.

Information gathered ahead of today’s opening session reveals that Supersport had done their budgets for 2012 but are on the hunt for a sponsor for the local league.

“This might mean if the equipment used comes from Zambia, then some games will be played on Thursdays and Fridays before the OB vans return to Zambia for the weekend games there.

“We submitted our plans rather late, but Supersport want to be involved and are looking for a sponsor for us. If we get that, we will have a super season,” the sources added.

PSL chief executive Kenny Ndebele would not comment on the issue yesterday referring questions to his boss, chairman Twine Phiri who maintained they were still talking to the pay-per-view giant.

The strategic planning meeting starts today and ends on Friday and will be looking at the 2012 to 2015 programme. The league has been operating in under Harare Declaration of 2008 where most of the objectives were not met by the clubs.

The meeting plans to develop a strategic plan that takes into account the current operating environment of the PSL in particular and Zimbabwe in general. The plan will have strong corporate governance pillars with specific focus on how the PSL and affiliated clubs will take ownership to drive its implementation.

Supersport has boosted the coffers of a number of leagues across southern, eastern and West Africa.
The South Africa Absa Premiership league signed a $1,6 billion deal in 2007 and renewed it last year with $2 billion agreement for a five-year period. In Kenya, the Premier League has a four-year deal worth $13,5 million expiring this year but which has already been extended by another four years.

In Zambia, the league signed a three year $2,5 million deal worth
$850 000 per year last year and with the success of the league, it’s poised for an extension before the end of the year.

Uganda are getting $1 million per year in a five-year deal signed last year.