CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 31: South African Rugby Union chief executive, Jurie Roux during the  RWC 2023 Media Conference at Imbizo Media Centre, Parliament on October 31, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
Roux Warns ICASA of Rights Proposal Implications

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux has pushed back against proposals from ICASA that would impose restrictions on media rights contracts.

ICASA’s proposed “remedies” include three-year limits on contracts and the unbundling of rights, but Roux feels that the changes would severely impact SA Rugby.

“We’re not opposed to the unbundling of rights as such, but we are opposed to the demerits of exclusivity and the value one can get from the broadcaster,” said Roux, speaking to News24. “That’s the memo we have with the current unbundling of rights. We believe in exclusivity and its value, and we understand that in the rugby environment. I’ve yet to see an example in the world where non-exclusivity renders the necessary remedies to sustain, not only SA Rugby, but its affiliates. Until we have those examples and elements to implement that, we can’t move from that. It’ll be to our own detriment and that of the game.”

Roux and SA Rugby have also argued that ICASA does not have the authority to implement such changes. ICASA serves as an independent body and regulates South Africa’s telecoms and broadcasting sectors.

SA Rugby has a long-term deal in place with SuperSport and ICASA is keen to generate more competition in the market. SA Rugby has argued that ICASA’s efforts are “unconstitutional” and that the body has not carried out a thorough economic impact assessment, a claim ICASA refutes.

SA Rugby, along with Premier Soccer League, took part in a virtual public hearing with ICASA last week.

In a statement, SA Rugby said: “ICASA does not have the power to regulate the affairs of sporting bodies. Under the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) and the ICASA act, the body is only authorised to regulate licensees. Though the proposed license conditions purport to regulate the conduct of licensees, they in fact preclude certain conduct on the part of sports federations. Even if ICASA considers the proposed remedies to be desirable, it does not have the powers under the ECA to regulate the conduct of sports federations as they are not licensees. The ECA’s scope does not permit ICASA to limit the rights of sports federations which are not licensees in the manner that it purports to.”

Roux insisted that SA Rugby is not opposed to the regulations, but that all that it asks is for “is that the regulations aren’t done in a way that stops the sport we love”.

In November, ICASA continued to apply pressure on SuperSport after releasing an expanded draft list of ‘public interest’ sports events to be shown live or delayed by South Africa’s free-to-air broadcasters.

ICASA’s draft bill sought to amend South Africa’s listed events legislation by dramatically expanding it to include all major sports events involving the South African men’s football, rugby and cricket teams, as well as top-tier club rugby and football competitions.

The draft recommended that major events such as the Fifa World Cup, Rugby World Cup, the ICC Cricket World Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations and Super Rugby should automatically appear on free-to-air television – either live or delayed – to ensure the South African public has access to premium sports content.

Free-to-air broadcasters currently access the majority of their sports content via sublicensing deals with SuperSport. Negotiations between the two sides often result in public disputes over SuperSport’s asking prices, which free-to-air broadcasters frequently argue are unreasonable.

The complete list of events which ICASA has called for live or delayed free-to-air coverage of in its latest recommendations reads as follows:

  • Summer Olympic Games
  • Paralympic Games
  • Fifa World Cup
  • Fifa Women’s World Cup
  • Africa Cup of Nations
  • Rugby World Cup
  • ICC Cricket World Cup
  • ICC T20 Cricket World Championships
  • Netball World Cup
  • Commonwealth Games
  • World Athletics Championships
  • Super Rugby
  • All Africa Games
  • COSAFA Cup
  • CAF Champions League
  • CAF Confederations Cup
  • MTN 8
  • Telkom Knockout
  • Nedbank Cup
  • Currie Cup
  • The TAFISA World Sport for All Games
Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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