Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist


No winners in Soweto Marathon broadcast battle

It doesn't help anyone when races are not broadcast due to conflict around television rights.


While it might seem like a reasonable argument being made by some members of the Soweto Marathon organising committee, the 10-year battle that has been waged around media rights has caused nothing but damage. And it hasn't really got them anywhere. Some have argued that the race should be able to control the sale of its own broadcast rights. This, however, caused enough friction last year that the event was not broadcast by rights holder SuperSport. The conflict also resulted in the suspension of three Soweto Marathon Trust board members, including chairman Sello Khunou. ALSO READ: Soweto Marathon will go ahead:…

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While it might seem like a reasonable argument being made by some members of the Soweto Marathon organising committee, the 10-year battle that has been waged around media rights has caused nothing but damage. And it hasn’t really got them anywhere.

Some have argued that the race should be able to control the sale of its own broadcast rights. This, however, caused enough friction last year that the event was not broadcast by rights holder SuperSport.

The conflict also resulted in the suspension of three Soweto Marathon Trust board members, including chairman Sello Khunou.

ALSO READ: Soweto Marathon will go ahead: Officials dismiss cancellation claims

Of course, one might assume that Khunou and others are fairly tackling the issues which they feel are limiting the potential of the race. But the reality is that sport isn’t structured like that.

Forming the backbone of the industry, the income from broadcast rights plays a key role in providing funding for sport. This includes some national federations.

If mother bodies receive enough income, sharing it with members is perhaps only fair. Even if not, however, the sale of broadcast rights does at least create a mutually beneficial loop.

Win-win situation

Athletics SA negotiates with broadcasters, with signed deals ensuring all major South African track and field and road running events are shown live on TV. This provides funding for the federation and gives races more leverage in securing corporate sponsorships.

It’s a win-win situation, and one which every race organiser in the country must accept if they want to be officially recognised by Athletics South Africa.

It doesn’t help when conflict around this clause in the ASA constitution results in races being cancelled or not being broadcast.

Lose-lose situation

This can cause events to implode in a lose-lose situation, with organisers struggling to gain sufficient backing from sponsors.

The Soweto Marathon is one of SA’s most popular road races. It has a route which features some of the country’s most historical monuments. It also attracts large fields of social runners and elite stars.

Organisers shouldn’t be worried about raking in sponsorships or guaranteeing broadcast coverage. Those things are both achievable in a win-win situation.

NOW READ: Gerda Steyn has become a living legend of ultra-distance running

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