TV: The kingmaker in sport

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The dramatic rise in revenue generated through broadcasting deals for sports events has been a major development over the past three decades.   

Television revenues have helped many sports codes transition from amateur to professional set-ups.

It is estimated that by the end of 2020, global sports rights will exceed US$30 billion per annum.

The major drivers of this value are the European soccer leagues, Formula One, Major League Baseball, the NBA, Olympic Games, Golf Majors, Southern American Copa America, and Copa Libertadores.  

The organisation of high-value sports events and leagues results in mega broadcasting deals have been replenishing the coffers of international, continental and national federations, as well as clubs and athletes.

This has seen professional sport develop into a viable industry capable of generating wealth and employment for millions of people all over the world.

Television has indeed become the new “kingmaker” in sport, surpassing revenue from match tickets, although watching live sports activities is still a major component of success in modern professional sport.

When one looks at the colossal amount of money being generated in sport, one wonders how all this has affected Africa and African sports organisations.

It is indeed disheartening to see how far Africa has fallen behind in this game of wealth creation through sport. Africa does not get even 5 percent of the revenue generated globally through broadcasting deals.

Although television viewership is growing on the continent, it is too fragmented into small 54 markets, which do not have any significant spending power.

However, this is changing slowly with Pan-African broadcasters emerging in the form Supersport TV on the DSTV platform, which covers a great number of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Furthermore, the spectacular emergence and rise of Kwese TV as a service provider in Sub-Saharan Africa can only be good for sport development in Africa.

However, this also depends on how African continental and regional sports confederations package and organise their activities.

Most of the leaders of sports organisations on the continent can be typically described as “old school”.  These are ladies and gentlemen who, for the most time, are preoccupied with retaining the positions they were elected into.

They float aimlessly from one elective congress to another, perpetuating their stay at the helm of the organisation, without adding any value whatsoever.

These are the “blazer brigades”, men and women wearing very nice and colourful uniforms while doing absolutely nothing to advance African sport, in practical terms.

These are the people keeping African sport in limbo, as the poor cousin of organisations in other regions.

By comparison, for example, the continental club football tournaments such as the South American Copa Libertadores or the Asian Champions League competitions are seriously lucrative competitions in their regions.

This is because of the marketing and sponsorship arrangements as well as the television broadcasting deals that have been put in place by the organisers. 

The same applies to the continental multi-sport major games such as Pan-American and Asian                Games.

The other key factors, which attract major sponsors and broadcasting partners, are regular as well as meticulous organisation and management of sports competitions.

Generally speaking, organisation of African sports is chaotic and this has nothing to do with financial constraints.

A good example is the continental multi-sport competition, Africa Games, previously known as the All Africa Games.

It is sad to see continental leaders, the African Union Sports Council and the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa fighting over control of the event, instead of coming together and working to create a stupendous showcase of African sport talent.

The broadcasting deals that could have been attracted for this major event simply flew out of the window.

Poor organisation and marketing have also affected other continental sports organisations that, instead of generating revenue and employment through their major events, ended up spending lots of money or requiring host national federations and/or governments to do so.

There is no reason why the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League tournament should not be an attractive and seriously lucrative engagement.

However, participating clubs end up spending more money than they can make from the tournament.

Despite, the huge popularity of football throughout Africa, very few people follow the CAF Champions League.

One will find that football lovers are much more interested in watching Real Madrid or Manchester United or Barcelona in the European Champions League rather than go to the stadium to watch Enyimba, Zamalek or Al Ahly.

The sad thing is that sometimes African football is much more exciting with a lot of skill and flair but it is just poorly organised and marketed.

It is therefore evident that as African sports bodies strive to improve organisational standards on and off the field of play, they must seek to attract the “kingmaker”, television.

It is television that can transform African sport financially, as is the case in the rest of the world.

Africa sport should and must position itself strategically to capitalise on its uniqueness thereby making a greater contribution to its people. The time is NOW!

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