New CAF president Ahmad Ahmad speaking in Johannesburg on Friday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG – After the Confederation of African Football (CAF) fought tooth and nail to defend the contentious sale of television rights to the Africa Cup of Nations and the Champions League matches to French media company Lagardere for the next 12 years, it’s new president says the controversial deal will now be reviewed.

Ahmad Ahmad, who dethroned Issa Hayatou as the head of CAF in Addis Ababa last month, said on Friday that the decision taken by his predecessor, whose reign stretched for 29 years, was probably going to be reversed.

In June 2015, CAF agreed to sell worldwide rights for the Afcon and Champions League games at a price believed to be worth $1 billion (about R13.79 billion) from 2017 through to 2028.

Several reports have suggested this contract is nearly 10 times more than what Lagardere paid in value for the previous nine-year deal.

CAF said the federation had committed no offence in negotiating the lengthy contract, even when there was uproar on the continent and the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) referred the Hayatou-led organisation for prosecution.

It is believed, and the ECA argued as much, that the bidding process for these television rights was not opened to other broadcasters.

“That contract was signed by the previous executive,” Ahmad said. “At the moment there is a court procedure against this contract, so I don’t want to say much. But we are looking at it.

“We just got elected and there are people, experts, who have been brought in to assist. People who specialise in television and marketing are involved and are trying to help us deal with this contract.”

One of the reasons the now former CAF secretary general (Hicham El Amrani) quit was because of the deal with Lagardere.

“We live in an environment where everything needs to be transparent and democratic. Everyone agrees that this is not a good contract, and this is why I am waiting for feedback.”

Ahmad vowed never to sign an agreement as questionable as the one Hayatou got into and left capable African media companies fuming that they were not afforded a chance to counter-offer.

With the Champions League group stages draw scheduled for April 26 at CAF headquarters in Cairo, there is already a timeline to have the controversial deal annulled.

Participating teams negotiate the broadcasting of their home matches in the earlier rounds, but CAF, with Lagardere as television rights holders, assume the responsibility from the group stages onwards.

Ahmad also discussed the possibility of having the Afcon take place every four years instead of the two years, which is currently how the continent’s premier international competition is set up.

The most recent tournament was held in Gabon from January 14 to February 5, with Cameroon crowned champions.

“This is the most important competition in Africa and probably the third most popular in the world.

“I will open discussion and bring media, officials and referees to make a decision on whether the duration and period should be changed,” the new CAF boss explained.


Saturday Star