By Enock Muchinjo
AT THE end of the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) season of 2015-16, audited accounts put broadcasting rights revenue at a whopping 492 million rands, roughly some US$41 million at current rates.
Sponsorship income stood at nearly R300 million, ample proof of the magnetism of Africa’s richest domestic football league.
This, of course, is big monies anywhere in the world, little wonder that we continue to see quality footballers from some of the world’s leading footballing nations coming to ply their trade in the South African league.
No doubt, the South African PSL’s reputation as a commercially viable entity will continue to grow with each passing season.
For me, what stands out in the audit in question is the revenue generated from television rights, a wonderful example of how broadcasters will literally fall over each other if leagues brand themselves attractively and make their products sellable.
Only last December, pay-TV channel SuperSport won the bid to renew their media rights for South Africa’s PSL in Sub-Saharan Africa for five more years, edging out competitors SABC and communications company Vodacom.
To the contrary, SuperSport had around the same time last year announced the end of its relationship with Zimbabwe’s PSL after a three-year marriage.
Frankly speaking, the reason for SuperSport’s departure from Zimbabwe is quite simple: our PSL did not give them the handsome returns anticipated when the deal was first signed five years ago.
It is a very sobering reality that has set in, like the loss of a loved one, who has resisted pleas to reconsider and stay.
The pain of the separation strikes more when one actually realises that of the other African countries outside South Africa where SuperSport has rights, Zimbabwe’s was the lesser lucrative, with clubs said to have received as little as US$11 7000 twice per year over the five years.
Last week, the 2018 edition of our PSL kicked off and, like a ditched partner, it started on a rather painful note – a stage of acceptance, closure and a new experience.
Officials have tried to put on a brave face, feeding us hacks with stories of potential suitors – some real and some imaginary.
Kwese Sports, the new kid on the block, has categorically stated it is not interested, at least for now.
Then there is Infront Sport, a Switzerland-based firm run by Phillipe Blatter, nephew of the former Fifa boss Sepp Blatter.
In some circles, word has been whispered, I’m told, that Infront has spoken of how it is genuinely serious about getting into Zimbabwe.
For a league that has been ditched by a continental giant, what value is it to someone sitting in some affluent Swiss town?
Of course, nothing is impossible, but the PSL must quickly get over the pain of being dumped – rebrand itself and make heads turn again.