Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1238, (19 - 25 March 2015)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1238, (19 - 25 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Football TV shows – without the football

While some are shutting their doors, others are set to be reborn. What really is happening to the country’s television sports channels and programmes? Ahmed Hamdi searches for an answer

Al-Ahram Weekly

‘MBC Masr 2 stops all its sports programmes, including Medhat Shalabi’. ‘Ahmed Shobair is to leave CBC Two and stops his soccer programme Al Malaab’. ‘Modern Sport to re-launch after a near three-year hiatus’.

This was the news that headlined all sports pages, online and in print, since the Egyptian league was put on hold after the Air Defence tragedy which resulted in the death of 20 football supporters last month in a stampede.

Much speculation and rumours have swirled over the real reasons behind these decisions, but none could be independently verified. For MBC Masr 2, it was said that the channel decided to cancel all sports programmes because of the uncertainty regarding the return of the Egyptian league. However, there were also reports that the channel’s top sports show presenter, Medhat Shalabi, was in negotiations with the owners of Modern Sport without telling his channel, which led the channel to terminate his contract.

Although both reasons could be true, it’s more logical to believe the first. For advertisers, they need to set a fixed marketing plan in which they will guarantee profits, but with the return of the Egyptian league not certain, it is understandable that advertisers will not want to take the risk.

On the other hand, Ahmed Shobair, one of the more famous sports show presenters, left CBC Two and ended a nearly two-year relationship with the channel. However, the former Ahli goalkeeper, unlike Shalabi, has made it clear that he is not ready to settle home just yet, revealing the news that he has joined a new/old channel -- Modern Sport.

The return of Modern Sport at this particular time is a mystery in itself. Risking a whole sports channel that revolves around Egyptian football at a time when Egyptian football is shaky, and right now virtually non-existent, raises plenty of question marks.

When the channel was first launched in 2007, Egyptian football was high in the sky having the national team as the African champion and Ahli dominating the African Champions League as well as having a semblance of a competitive league, albeit not very stable. The public was at least much into Egyptian football at that time. The channel gathered all the renowned presenters like Shalabi, Shobair, the then presenter Alaa Sadik, and many more.

Modern Sport was certainly a leading sports channel that grew bigger and bigger as Egyptian football shined, until 2011, but then the 25 January Revolution erupted and things changed. The channel still kept going for some time, although people’s interest in football shrank. It was then that came the Port Said massacre that resulted in the death of more than 70 of Ahli’s fans in 2012 in a soccer riot. That wrote the farewell letter to the channel. It failed to grab the attention of fans anymore, especially after the cancellation of the Egyptian league following the tragedy. That lasted more than a year.

The return of this channel today shall not put it back at the top of the sports channels chain, as it was before. Furthermore, it will be a tough time for the channel’s owners if they decide to launch the channel before making sure of the return of the Egyptian league. Also, even if the league resumes, it will be a very big mistake to imagine that the channel will have the same success it once had. The owners have to understand that the atmosphere is now different and people’s taste has changed as well, gravitating more to watching European leagues.

A channel that revolves around only Egyptian football, which these days is a day in, day out affair, is a major risk, because once the league is on hold, like these days, the presenters will have nothing to talk about except getting into personal fights and getting themselves stuck in political debates that they are not qualified for. The only other choice that they will have is to cover European football, but with all the airing rights owned to Bein Sports, they have no chance in competing on that field.

The question remains: will advertisers risk their money on a pure sports channel?

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