Matches canceled, payment not made ... A few months after the agreement reached late 2018 between the Senegalese League of Professional Football (LSFP) and the Chinese media StarTimes, its implementation is complicated.
On paper, the agreement was enticing. A partnership of ten years (2018-2028), for a total amount of 9 666 000 euros, a providential sum for Senegalese football, which does not roll on gold. StarTimes, a powerful Chinese media well established in Africa, had to broadcast every two days of the championship two matches of 1 Division, as well as magazines on professional football in Senegal. A pact to which was added the supply of ten synthetic lawns or different awards given to the best players in the retransmitted matches.
But three months after the start of the championship, the agreement would already lead in the wing. Six matches, including two to be broadcast via the StarTimes mobile application, have been postponed, a situation that both shrieks Saer Seck, the president of the LSFP, and the Chinese leaders based at the company's head office in Beijing, who can not note the difficulties encountered in developing their commercial activities in Senegal.
The matches appearing in the retransmission program were shifted for various reasons: the stadiums were indeed already selected for other events (political rallies, wrestling matches, concerts, religious songs), or because the number of police officers to ensure the maintenance of order was not high enough. "It's not normal, and it proves that there is a structural problem. We have football stadiums that serve other things. This may be conceivable, but it seems that football comes last. If we want to professionalize it, we must do otherwise. Otherwise, nothing will advance, "rattled a club officer.
Saer Seck, the boss of professional football in Senegal, does not hide his concern to see the contract between the LSFP and StarTimes questioned. "For now, the Chinese do not threaten to break the deal. But we, players in Senegalese football, must make sure that this problem stops. We found a partner who pays TV rights, which no one had ever done before. If this broadcaster promotes a match to be broadcast and learns that the game is postponed for any reason, he has the right to be furious. "
"You need an essential awareness: economically, football is important. If our championship takes place in good conditions, with visibility, it will attract other investors. And in ten years, after the partnership with StarTimes, maybe we can think of something even more important, "says Seck, according to which professional football represents 1 500 direct jobs in Senegal.
Augustin Senghor, president of the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF), observes the situation with great attention: "This contract is important for Senegalese football, which has found a broadcaster willing to put significant resources to give it real visibility, nationally and internationally. Just remember that professional football in Senegal represents several thousand direct jobs. It's really insignificant, and we try to make it understand to the authorities. We have a deficit of structures in Senegal. It is quite understandable that the stadiums are used for other events than football matches, but these must remain priorities anyway. "
The first payment of StarTimes still expected
In July 2018, Telecom, prime contractor for the TNT installation in Senegal, challenged Chinese methods before the National Council for the Regulation of Audiovisual (CNRA), which had determined that the commercialization process of StarTimes' DTT decoders and its distribution of audiovisual services was "irregular".
StarTimes, which has partnered with the production company RTS for the broadcast of matches via Life TV, has not yet started marketing its decoders. "Matches can be watched on the StarTimes app on smartphones," says Saer Seck, who confirms the information from Young Africa that the Chinese have not yet paid the rules promised for the current season (about 970 000 euros). "That's right, but the payment is expected in the coming days," he says.
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