Runners compete in the annual Comrades Marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Picture: 123RF/ LEON SWART
Runners compete in the annual Comrades Marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Picture: 123RF/ LEON SWART

Sport minister Tokozile Xasa has stepped into the contractual dispute between Athletics SA and the SABC in an attempt to prevent a broadcast blackout of the Comrades Marathon in June.

Fears of a blackout escalated after discussions between Athletics SA and the SABC failed to produce a breakthrough‚ leading to the Two Oceans Marathon not being televised at the weekend.

Consequently Xasa issued a warning to the two parties to seek common ground and avoid denying South Africans the opportunity to watch major events on television.

“We are convening a meeting with Athletics SA and we will be talking about everything because these things also threaten their championships‚” she said.

“This is not good for them [Athletics SA] and the SABC and therefore our intervention is because this situation impacts on the people of SA. That is where we enter to say where can we help to find common ground.

“The Two Oceans is listed among the events to be broadcast in terms of the SABC‚ so there was nothing that could be done because it [the contractual dispute] was [at] such short notice.”

Sports ministry director-general Alec Moemi said a solution should be found urgently.

“They [Athletics SA] will meet the minister to see what could be a potential solution‚” Moemi said. “You also have to look at third-party contracts because you have a sponsor on the basis that there is going to be TV and suddenly there is no TV because you have a dispute with the broadcaster.

“This situation is unfair on the part of athletics because they would have normally received so much for this thing and SABC say we can’t broadcast the event. It is becoming apparent that SABC sport is under threat from all types of contracts.”

Xasa said her department was caught by surprise by the SABC’s failure to broadcast the Two Oceans Marathon and only found out about it in the news.

“Athletics SA did not even have the courtesy of informing us until we picked it up in the news and we had to call them‚” he said. “We told them this is not just about whatever dispute they have with SABC‚ South Africans are affected and we had to step in.”