Coming to a local screen: Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, No10, scores against Huddersfield on Sunday. South African fans will soon be able to watch English Premier League matches live on SABC. Picture: REUTERS
Coming to a local screen: Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, No10, scores against Huddersfield on Sunday. South African fans will soon be able to watch English Premier League matches live on SABC. Picture: REUTERS

Jaws dropped on Tuesday after the cash-strapped SABC announced it would start broadcasting English Premier League games live on Saturdays when it claims it cannot afford to televise Bafana matches.

The announcement came just hours after the SABC board told parliament that the public broadcaster is in an awful financial state.

Briefing the portfolio committee on sport‚ SABC board chair Bongumusa Makhathini revealed that projections for the end of August are that the national broadcaster will have R26m in the bank while it owes creditors a staggering R694m.

Newly appointed SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu defended the decision and said broadcasting English Premier League matches is aimed at turning around the broadcaster.

"I can’t talk to you about the financials and how much the deal cost because I have not had an opportunity to familiarise myself with it‚ but I will in the coming days‚" Momodu said.

"We’re turning the corner now and we’ve got a leadership that has got integrity and one that puts the interest of the public and the organisation first."

Momodu‚ who replaced Kaizer Kganyago as spokesperson last week‚ said that the SABC has subcontracted the rights to show the live English matches to Kwese Sports.

"From an integrity point of view‚ I can assure you that whatever has been entered into with Kwese is in line with corporate governance and also bearing in mind the dire financial situation we find ourselves in. We put measures in place to make sure people that sign relevant documents internally are not going to go against the [prescripts] and what the board said is fine to do and not to do."

The SABC’s announcement comes just days after it emerged that Bafana Bafana’s next games may not be broadcast as a result of the cash crisis at Auckland Park. Safa revealed that the public broadcaster‚ which reported a net loss of almost R1bn in the 2016-17 financial year‚ has failed to honour its financial obligations for several months and owes the football body more than R50m.

Momodu said the SABC is in talks with relevant parties to ensure that national team matches are beamed live on the broadcaster’s platforms.

"The SABC is engaging with a number of partners, including Safa and the PSL‚" she said.

"Conversations with Safa are ongoing and once there is an agreement to be reached, the public will be first to know."

The SABC will broadcast one Premier League match on Saturdays for the rest of the season starting with Saturday’s London derby between Arsenal and West Ham United‚ according to a SABC statement.

Viewers will be able to catch the preview of all the weekend’s Premier League fixtures with the Premier League Preview Show on Saturdays at 3pm‚ followed by a live studio build-up at 3.30pm before the match kick-off at 4pm on SABC 3. The Premier League Review Show will showcase all the highlights‚ goals and post-match interviews on Tuesdays at 11.30pm.

"SABC 3 is going to provide South Africans who love sports and, in particular‚ soccer the opportunity to access some of the greatest teams in the world in one of the biggest leagues globally for free.

"The English Premier League has a strong brand equity that we believe will contribute towards the building of the SABC 3 brand," said SABC TV Channels GM David Makubyane.

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