Eswatini Daily News
Local camera crew hard at work at the Mavuso Sports Centre.

By Lwazi Dlamini

FOUR months before its flagship Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) competition in Ivory Coast, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has cut its biggest Television Broadcast deal.

The deal, signed with Qatari Media Group, beIN, in 2017 and worth a staggering $415 million (about E7.8 billion) was cancelled by CAF Lawyers on September 1, 2023. CAF has accused beIN of a contractual breach and said it wants to recover outstanding payments in the region of US$80 million (about E1.5 billion) to US$100 million (about E1.8 billion).

According to a report carried by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the decision could see CAF enter another costly legal process. The Qatar-based media group has responded to the latest CAF decision by acknowledging “a number of issues that have affected the contractual relationship” and advising African football’s ruling body of its intention to sue unless “open discussions in good faith (can) resolve this issue.”

“We are, of course, taking all necessary steps to robustly defend our legal position,” Yousef Al-Obaidly wrote to both CAF and its Executive Committee on September 2, 2023. He added: “I must make it clear to you that beIN does not accept this termination and will take all necessary legal steps to challenge and overturn it.

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“In addition, we have significant concerns that this major decision relating to CAF’s most valuable commercial contract may have been taken without the necessary scrutiny and approvals required under CAF’s internal regulations.”

In contrast to CAF statutes which require major financial decisions to be discussed by the body’s executive committee, BBC Sport Africa understands this did not happen – with CAF having been approached for comment. BeIN hinted it may cite this unlawful process as one reason to legally contest the termination, as well as fundamentally arguing against the very nature of the decision itself.

It is the second time in four years that CAF has unilaterally cancelled a contract with its biggest financial partner. In November 2019, the decision to scrap the largest contract in CAF history – a television and marketing rights deal, which guaranteed at least $1bn (about E18.9 billion), signed with Lagardere Sports to cover 2017-2028 – cost the Cairo-based body some $50m (about E945 million), a sum which has been settled in the last year.

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Now known as Sport5, Lagardere Sports had originally requested $90m (about E1.7 billion) in compensation. A source close to the matter has told the BBC that beIN will be chasing a similar amount, albeit before damages are also claimed.

The cancellation of the beIN Sports deal means that CAF currently has no major international broadcasters four months before January’s Africa Cup of Nations, whose final qualifying round takes place over the next 10 days.

In addition, both CAF’s continental club competitions – the Champions League and Confederation Cup – are scheduled to start in November, although the newly created African Football League kicks off before then.

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