LOCAL football is set to return early next month in the form of a cup championship after almost 18 months on suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While all but one of the 18 clubs are ready to begin training after successfully completing COVID-19 tests, the Premier Soccer League (PSL) last week began engaging potential broadcast partners both radio and TV as it desperately seeks funding to cushion teams.
Media reports suggest that the PSL even demanded
US$200 000 from ZBC-tv for the exclusive broadcast rights of the competition, a demand the latter allegedly dismissed with disdain.
It is important to note that one of the main reasons why local football took longer to resume is lack of a long-term broadcasting partner.
This is probably the time when PSL misses its erstwhile partner, South African broadcaster SuperSport.
PSL ended its five-year relationship with SuperSport worth US$2 million under unclear circumstances in 2017 and the league has failed to find another partner since.
Interestingly, most, if not all, of the leagues working with SuperSport were able to resume competition last year while the Zimbabwean league when it was given the greenlight to resume late last year failed to do so.
At the time, SuperSport was reportedly paying a paltry US$23 400 to each local club per year, which was the lowest deal compared to other African leagues, where the broadcaster held exclusive TV rights. But such a cash injection would have come in handy for local clubs, especially in a time of crisis like this.
But there were other benefits of partnering such a big broadcaster, one of them being that it marketed our football to millions of viewers around the globe. The giant broadcaster has rights in Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia and lately Ethiopia, who signed a deal with SuperSport in last October.
While the PSL is looking for a broadcasting partner, it must consider engaging SuperSport in the long run for the good of our football. There was general sentiment that the SuperSport deal short-changed the PSL, but the local league should not have severed ties before finding an alternative suitor.
Back then, it was reported that Kwese Sports would pour in a lot of money for the exclusive TV rights for local football, but nothing materialised.
PSL also should also learn to market the local game in order to attract the corporate world at different levels of the game, especially when it has a TV partner. However, this season should be a defining one for local football in terms of TV rights, which is a key source of revenue for clubs in the absence of gate-takings.
The PSL must enter into beneficial partnerships in disposing of its TV rights and package the competition in such a way that it is marketable to broadcasters.
Of interest is the fact that the Castle Challenge Cup between FC Platinum and Highlanders last year attracted over 600 000 views after it was broadcast on the Zimbabwe Television Network (ZTN)’s Facebook Live platform. It is time local footballers and clubs get handsome rewards when they participate in local competitions.
Partnership with SuperSport will be crucial going forward.