Now Comrades Marathon faces TV blackout

Two Oceans champion Bongumusa Mthembu. The race was not broadcast on TV.
Two Oceans champion Bongumusa Mthembu. The race was not broadcast on TV.
Image: Esa Alexander

After yesterday's blackout of the Two Oceans Marathon by the SABC, the Comrades Marathon is in serious danger of suffering the same fate.

Athletics SA (ASA) failed to agree terms with the cash-strapped SABC on televising the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town and there is no deal in place regarding the Comrades, 50 days away.

The Comrades, scheduled for June 9, is one of the marquee events on the SA sporting calendar as it attracts hundreds of elite ultra-marathon athletes from around the globe and running enthusiasts from around the country.

This year is the "up run", which will start from the City Hall in Durban and finish at the Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg, covering a distance of 87km.

Comrades Marathon GM Keletso Totlhanyo confirmed yesterday that there is no deal between ASA and SABC, but said the parties are working around the clock to ensure that there is no blackout.

"The rights of the Comrades Marathon are with ASA and we rely on them to do a deal with SABC," she said.

Two Oceans champion Gerda Steyn.
Two Oceans champion Gerda Steyn.
Image: Esa Alexander

"We have requested permission from ASA to talk directly with the SABC and we are meeting them on Thursday to see if we can find each other. We are left with about 50 days to the event and time is really not on our side.

"We are hoping that we can finalise everything as soon as possible so planning can start in earnest because, as I said, time is really not on our side," she said, adding that she is hopeful a deal will be struck soon.

"Every time we negotiate for a sponsor, we also negotiate for a broadcast package and that makes life easier for the SABC."

SABC spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu expressed regret that they could not televise the Two Oceans Marathon but did not want to comment on the possible blackout of the Comrades Marathon.

"We would like to show events like the Two Oceans Marathon but unfortunately couldn't conclude a deal with ASA.

"With regards to the Comrades Marathon, I am not in a position to comment on the matter," she said.

ASA acting president and road running commission chairperson James Moloi also confirmed that they don't have a contract with the SABC.

"We are negotiating with the SABC and we are meeting them on the 25th because that is the date that they gave us," said Moloi.

"If there is no contract, there is nothing that we can do but we are meeting them so that we can speed up the process.

"I am with people from the Comrades Association here at the Two Oceans Marathon and we will hear from the SABC on Thursday where we will negotiate for all the races of ASA. Maybe we may finalise this deal for the Comrades Marathon."

Yesterday, three-time Comrades winner Bongumusa Mthembu won the Two Oceans Marathon in a time of 03hrs 08min 40sec, which was less than two minutes ahead of countryman and second-placed David Gatebe (03:10:30).

In the women's section SA's Gerda Steyn took the honours in a time of 03:31:29 and she was followed by Mamorallo Tjoka of Lesotho on 03:38:23, with Irvette van Zyl of SA completing the top three in 03:41:32.

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