Johannesburg - The Absa Premiership was cock-a-hoop on Monday as it announced yet another innovation – an addition to the MultiChoice Diski Challenge, which is has been growing in popularity since its inception four years ago.
The new MultiChoice Diski Shield is a cup competition meant to increase field time for PSL reserve teams. It is scheduled to kick off on April 7 and wrap up with the final on May 5.
The winners will receive R150 000 for a football development initiative in a local community of their choice.
While this is a good development for grassroots football, it does raise questions about the state of the National First Division (NFD).
Since inception, the NFD appears to be the Cinderella cousin of the Absa Premiership. While the NFD is the second tier in our professional football structure, the gap between it and the Absa Premiership remains embarrassingly large.
While the winner of the Absa Premiership smiles all the way to the bank with a whooping R10 million cheque, Baroka FC received only R300 000 when they became the overall NFD winners.
The last time I checked, PSL sides received R1.5 million monthly grants, while their poor NFD cousins had to do with a measly R500 000.
If the PSL is such a successful and progressive organisation – and the richest league in Africa, as we are led to believe – why has it failed to package and market the NFD properly?
While the NFD was sold as part of the package for broadcast rights with SuperSport, one rarely sees live broadcasts of its matches, and we mainly only get the magazine programme on the league.
It is usually only when the NFD play-offs for promotion to the Absa Premiership come around that all matches are beamed live.
Why? What would it take to have NFD matches broadcast live on television?
Meanwhile, MultiChoice Diski Challenge matches are broadcast live on every weekend they are played. They are aired on a number of channels, even non-sports ones that are on the DStv bouquet.
This has created the impression that the Diski Challenge, which is the PSL reserve league, is more important than the NFD.
Even the fourth tier of South African football, the ABC Motsepe League, which is run under the auspices of the SA Football Association, awards its winners with a cool R1 million prize. The runners-up, who get promoted to the NFD, pocket R500 000.
This means that, should the club that finished second in the ABC Motsepe League go on to win the NFD crown the following season, they would receive R200 000 less than what they collected the previous season by finishing second in the lower division.
There was a time when NFD clubs were up in arms and even threatened to go it alone. I’m not sure what happened to those protests.
I remember how the likes of Durban Stars boss Phindani Nene, Dynamos owner Pat Malabela and the late Jabu “Little Corporal” Khumalo fought for the NFD to be treated with more respect and be given better terms.
However, all that fell on deaf ears and nothing happened.
Is there something that we are not being told?
Is the NFD an unnecessary burden or nuisance to the Absa Premiership?
If the NFD is important to the make-up of South African football, it is time for it to be treated better.
The league has gone without sponsorship since Tokyo Sexwale’s Mvelaphanda pulled out donkey’s years ago.
Ironically, in many football quarters, the league is still referred to as the Mvelaphanda League.
South Africa is somewhere there on top with some of the leading countries in the world when it comes to branding and the creation of brand awareness.
Can someone please package and brand the NFD in such a way that it becomes attractive to sponsors and broadcasters? This would benefit Mzansi football immensely, rather than have the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
MultiChoice Diski Challenge clubs are owned by the owners of the 16 Absa Premiership clubs, meaning their brands continue to get exposure when a cup competition like the MultiChoice Diski Shield are added to the football roster.
The only time NFD clubs get a sniff at a cup competition is when the Nedbank Cup, which is also open to amateur clubs, comes around.
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