A renewed commitment to excellence and a nod to the past were the main themes as the Premier Soccer League and SuperSport celebrated their 10-year partnership at a gala function in Johannesburg on Saturday night.
This was to mark the successful collaboration between the two; a partnership that has empowered people and fundamentally changed the tapestry of South African soccer.
The great and the good of the soccer, entertainment and political world were in attendance, among them Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula, PSL Chairman Dr Irvin Khoza, former PSL bosses Trevor Phillips and Kjetil Siem, football club owners, players, sponsors, socialites and actors.
“I can’t help but be both humbled and excited by what the past 10 years have delivered, not least in the part we played in giving South African soccer the respect and prominence it deserves,” said Imtiaz Patel, CEO of Video Entertainment at Naspers, in his keynote address. “It truly now has its place in the sun.”
Acknowledging the fruits of a productive partnership, Dr Khoza said that SuperSport had always understood the value of its investment and had, in turn, helped the PSL thrive.
“The relationship was a defining moment for the industry in this country. It’s been far more than a mere investment in the PSL. Development has benefited, too, with club academies producing top players.
“I commend SuperSport for their courage, for being so single-minded, for understanding . . . they had the inner spirit to help bring out the best of the immense talent available in our country.”
There is broad recognition that the PSL is one of the world’s most vibrant leagues, having jumped from 30th to top 10 in terms of revenue.
The League generates more money than ever before and players’ wages have shot up with rafts of players opting to stay at home rather than play overseas because of comparable rewards in SA. Professional attitudes abound.
There have been milestones and achievements aplenty:
• Whereas 75 matches per annum used to be broadcast, 250 are now broadcast live (in conjunction with SuperSport’s free-to-air broadcast partner).
• SuperSport has a dedicated PSL channel 24/7 in High Definition with 180 matches broadcast live, all in HD. • Up to 30 cameras are used per production, up from 10 a decade ago.
• There are multiple commentary options with state-of-the-art graphics.
• Apart from the use of the best pundits, commentators and analysts, the partnership also spurred job creation in both television and soccer.
• African players now have a global league on their doorstep.
• Global interest in the PSL is constant with requests from African countries, UAE, Scandinavia and even the US for broadcast of PSL matches.
• The partnership also gave rise to the MultiChoice Diski Challenge, a feeder competition to the PSL, which has proven a staggering success.
• PSL grants have shot up and many clubs have attracted prominent owners, who see the value of investment. • A higher percentage of clubs have sponsors than ever before; they can now get a better return on investment through additional broadcast exposure.
• More clubs offer players (and their families) medical aid cover.
• The PSL is now a world leader in rights management, allowing for PSL autonomy and self-sustainability.
Both Khoza and Patel spoke optimistically of reaching new frontiers in the coming decade with the PSL and SuperSport building on powerful foundations.
“There are scores of DStv dishes on township roofs, which illustrates how much local soccer resonates with local fans,” said Patel. “We have made every effort to produce affordable viewing packages, and the response has been humbling. The strength of the league is its vibrancy and energy. We hope to continue to play our part in what has become a case study in sport partnership.”