The Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) has served a warning for the 16 football clubs, which are contesting on the Ethiopian premier league. EFF is claiming that the clubs failed to regulate television and radio stations that are live-streaming matches from the stadiums.
The broadcasters that live-stream the matches are Tigray TV, Debub TV and Amhara Mass Media Agency (Amhara TV). Along with some city and regional based radio stations including Bisrat, Zami and Debub.
Ethiopian News Network (ENN) and Walta televisions are also in the pipeline, according to Esayas Tafesse, marketing director of the Federation.
A letter that was signed by the president Junedin Basha issued on April 14, 2018, claims that neither the clubs nor the broadcasters are informing the proper authority. The federation refers to an article of its regulation which restricts any organisation from airing or broadcasting football matches without the recognition of the Federation or a license.
“The broadcasters are not considering the benefits of the clubs, rather, using a self-benefiting system,” Essayas told Fortune.
Before issuing the letter, the Federation had called the teams for a meeting in the beginning of April 2018, to discuss the matter. Most of the clubs, however, complained that the Federation has no right over the issue. Instead, there should be an autonomous body called the ‘league committee,’ like that of the English Premier League they proposed.
In some cases, football teams signed an agreement with broadcasters for live transmission of matches. Walta Television, for instance, has agreed with Fasil Kenema F.C on a deal for live transmission of the club’s matches.
Girmachew Eniyew, a sports journalist on Bisrat FM who transmits football matches live, discards the Federation’s decision by questioning the legality of the Federation’s executive body.
“The executive body is illegal, as they are operating after the 45 days of probation period given to them,” he said.
Only the clubs have the right to decide on the broadcasting of matches, according to Girmachew, stating that they air games after informing the home team.
Menilik Girma, head of public relations at St. George Football Club contests with Girmachew’s claim, stating that none of the radio stations approached them for permission.
“There is no radio station coming to us asking for permission,” Menilik said. “Rather television stations have been informing us before doing so. Still, we need to generate income as we are getting nothing,” he remarked.
However, some television stations claim that they made no profit out of the live broadcasting of the football matches.
“We aim to serve the football fans, who do not have the ability to attend the matches at the stadiums,” Said Ashenafi Zelele, head of the sports department of ENN Television.
Most of the big leagues in the world generate revenue from match transmission and commercials.
“Ethiopian clubs do not have financial problems,” said Mensur Abdulkeni, a football analyst. “They have a utilisation problem as they are paying over exaggerated salaries for a market which does not produce, he told Fortune.”
To outsource the premier league broadcasting service, the Federation attempted to float a bid in June 2017. Five companies including Kana, ENN and Walta TV submitted their documents. A Chinese Pay television broadcaster, Star Times, which broadcasts the Ghana Premier League, took part in the process.
However, the Federation was not satisfied with their income distribution statements in the proposal, according to Essays.
The Federation’s team went to Ghana mid-June in 2017, when the National Team the Waliysd played with the Ghanaian national team, to negotiate a broadcasting deal. However, the Chinese company failed to submit details of its proposal and gave no response about its plans, according to Essayas.
Fikir Yilkal, a sports journalist and an academician, states that the interest of the host clubs must be taken into consideration.
“But no one is sure whether the away teams are willing to participate in the live streaming process,” Fikir told Fortune.
The next step would be taking actions, according to Essayas.
“We will be taking legal measures on clubs who do not accord with our announcement,” said Essayas.
Two days after the warning Debub FM, a regional radio station broadcasted a match live. The game was between Jimma Abajiffar and Sidama Bunna football clubs. ENN had also aired a halftime match between the north clubs Mekelle City F.C and Woldia F.C, after the Federation’s notice.
The Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA) took no part in the process, as it does not involve in content, according to Gebregiorgis Abrha, the public relations of EBA.
“We do not put a limit on content while giving broadcasting licenses,” said Gebregiorgis. “However, there might be internal procedures within their regulations.”
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