Contentious African football decisions under review

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Contentious decisions on African football’s television rights and tournament hosting agreements will be reviewed in the coming months, the new Confederation of African Football head said on Friday.

The possibility of changing the timing of African Nations Cup finals is also on the cards, as well as the qualification process for junior tournaments.

“I will be discussing with as many stake holders as there around African football to come up with the best solution for the problems,” Ahmad, who uses only one name, told a press conference in Johannesburg after meeting with presidents of southern Africa’s football associations.

The new CAF president, who comes from Madagascar, pulled off an upset triumph over long-term incumbent Issa Hayatou in last month’s elections.

Ahmad said he was concerned about a 12-year television deal that CAF signed last year with French-based Lagardere Sports.

“This contract is the subject of a judicial challenge in the Egyptian courts at the moment and it was to protect the integrity of CAF in this issue that the general secretary Hicham (El Amrani) submitted his resignation, which we accepted,” he said.

“We will investigate but I am concerned about the length of the contract. I would never sign anything for longer than three years.”

Lagardere Sports hold the television and marketing rights over all CAF’s major properties and have guaranteed African football a minimum of $1-billion in income over the next 12 years. Last month’s CAF Congress was told this could be more in the region of $1.5-billion.

Ahmad said he would also consider switching the hosting of the Nations Cup from January to mid-year and also look at its two-year frequency.

“It is the big stars who make this tournament and I will be talking to them to see how they feel. This is something where we need to consider many different points of view,” he said.

African footballers at European clubs are under increasing pressure to forego the tournament because it falls in the middle of their club season.

Ahead of January’s finals in Gabon, nine players took the unprecedented step of turning down call-ups to play for the country in order to stay at their clubs.

Ahmad said CAF would also look at regionalising qualification for its Under-20 and Under-17 Championship.

Phillip Chiyangwa, president of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations, said his organisation would also seek to reverse CAF’s decision to host the next three Nations Cup tournaments in francophone countries in west Africa.

The 2019 tournament is to be held in Cameroon, the 2021 finals in the Ivory Coast and 2023 was handed to Guinea.

“They were politically aggressively awarded to those countries. Only one region is benefiting from all competitions,” he said. “There must be a commission of enquiry into how this came about and we are going to protest it.”

Ahmad takes charge of his first CAF executive committee meeting in Bahrain on May 8, just days before the FIFA Congress.

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