OPINION: Monopoly sport and big business are killing Springboks

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SPRINGBOK rugby – all rugby actually – died in my home last weekend, and so will the Proteas and other top cricket competitions this weekend.

It feels like some close, and favourite, members of the family have been murdered. I know who are responsible, but there is nothing I can do. As a pensioner, I just simply cannot afford just shy of a thousand rand per month for the “privilege” of watching rugby and cricket on TV. And, to add insult to injury, not even commentary on radio is available anymore.

South African Rugby and Cricket have sold the broadcast rights of the national teams’ games to DStv, which only broadcast these games on DStv1 (rugby) and DStv2 (cricket). These two channels are only available to those who subscribe to the monopoly encoded broadcaster’s full service, which costs literally just shy of R1 000 per month.

Until three weeks ago I had the benefit of accommodation where there was so-called “share view” available. But, then I moved and had to subscribe in my own name at the new address.

Of the deals available, I settled for one for R235 which gave me a fair mixture, my primary concern being able to look at news channels and watch “independent” South African news coverage. I can also watch some local football, if I’m interested, or become so.

However, if I want to watch local rugby or cricket, the only option is to go for the full hock at the full price.

The distinct impression I got is that DStv believes rugby and cricket fans are all members of the of the top income bracket, which they can milk to subsidise some other audiences with a perceived lower average income.

One can only assume that South African Rugby and Cricket share this view. And, if they don’t, they were either stupid or were seduced by the money involved.

Losing touch with what is really happening in the sport, except for the scores given in news broadcasts or what I read here and there, I for one will not be buying a ticket for the next big game at Newlands – not knowing what to expect from the players.

Professional era

One can accept that the professional era of rugby, which dawned about three decades ago, places some pressure on administrators – for many of whom the sport has also become a career – but they, and players desperately need to get their priorities right or they destroy the goose that has laid the golden eggs until now.

At a personal level, in the mid-1960s, in my very early twenties, I did well enough as sportsman to earn provincial colours in two sports. At the time, the closest to becoming a professional sportsman was – like some of my friends and peers at the time did – to become a so-called rep for consumer products. In many instances, it was for tobacco companies, promoting cigarettes.

For me sport at the top level became so demanding that it interfered with my studies, and I had to change my priorities and let go of some of my sport ambitions. Now, economic pressure and the cost of watching sport on TV again forced me to make a priority choice.

It is time that players and administrators, especially in rugby, reassess their priorities before their dreams go up in smoke.

Morbid Bokkie

This article originally appeared in The Intelligence Bulletin

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