South Africa: Athletics TV Blackout Not Only About Comrades, Says ASA President

Cape Town — Athletics South Africa (ASA) top brass is meeting with the SABC on Thursday to find a solution amidst concerns that this year's Comrades Marathon will not be televised.

The public broadcaster's financial problems are well-documented and reports out of KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday revealed that the Comrades Marathon Association's (CMA) is worried that this year's race could suffer a TV blackout.

Last week's Two Oceans Marathon, in its historic 50th year, was also not televised and that caused an uproar from the athletics community.

Comrades, considered one of South Africa's flagship sporting events, would take that public outcry to new heights.

But, speaking to Sport24 on Thursday, ASA president Aleck Skhosana explained that Thursday's meeting was not only centred around Comrades and that it would also seek to get athletics in general back on free-to-air television.

The ASA Senior Championships, for example, got underway in Germiston on Thursday where the very best athletes in the country will be competing.

"It's not only the Comrades Marathon, it's a whole issue," Skhosana said.

"Today is the beginning of the SA Senior Championships where our Olympic champions and the world record holders are running ... Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya ... and it will not be broadcast."

The meet is a particularly significant one for Van Niekerk as he continues his recovery from a long-term knee injury that saw him sidelined from October 2017 all the way through until February this year.

This is easily Van Niekerk's biggest event since his injury, but South Africans will not be able to watch him run.

"The matter is ongoing," Skhosana added.

"SABC has its own problems that are not of our making. It's public knowledge.

"We'll be talking about the entire situation going back to normality, because over the years SABC has been broadcasting ASA events until they had problems."

According to Skhosana, negotiations between ASA and the SABC falling flat is not an uncommon experience.

"We have been meeting with SABC every year, including last year, but they told us they have these issues," he said.

"We are meeting with their top management today (Thursday) to see what can be done to ensure that we all benefit."

Despite their financial woes, the SABC found a way to commit to broadcasting the first-ever edition of cricket's Mzansi Super League late last year, an event which saw them provide live coverage of all 32 matches around the country.

Source: Sport24

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