News 16th March 2017

CAF votes Issa Hayatou out as competition charges progress

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has voted to replace its President Issa Hayatou, the FIFA Senior Vice President who has led the African confederation for the past 29 years, with Madagascan Ahmad Ahmad. The vote follows a decision by the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) to press ahead with criminal charges against Hayatou and Hisham el Amrani, Secretary General of the CAF, for abusing its dominant position in the market by offering its TV rights to Lagardère Sports without a competitive tender process. The deal with Lagardère is reportedly worth US$1 billion and runs until 2028, with a priority right to extension until 2036.

Hayatou and El Amrani were ‘signatories on the prohibited licensing agreement with Lagardère Sports which granted the latter the exclusive rights to commercially exploit the marketing and media rights of the main regional football competitions in Africa for two consecutive terms covering the period between (2008 – 2028) with a priority right for further extension of exclusivity until the year 2036’, read a 13 March statement from the ECA. ‘The investigations conducted by the ECA in this regard concluded that CAF infringed the Egyptian Competition Law (ECL) and engaged in anticompetitive practices by abusing its dominant position in the Egyptian market’.

The CAF’s contract with Lagardère was cited as an abuse of a dominant position by Presentation Sports, which alleges that it was denied the opportunity to bid for the CAF TV rights. Lagardère has yet to comment. It is understood that CAF signed the agreement with Lagardère in June 2015, almost a year and half before the current rights agreement ended. Lagardere had also ‘owned’ the rights in 2008 and until 2016, which means that the company acquired broadcasting rights for 20 years. The rights were not limited to satellite broadcasting, but also included internet streaming.

“We are deeply disappointed to be denied the opportunity of a fair and transparent bid for CAF’s media rights, despite repeated requests and calls made by the Egyptian Competition Authority’, said Yasser Fathy, legal advisor to Presentation Sports in a statement sent via email (PDF below). ‘We assign great value to the demands of our loyal viewers across Egypt and Africa, and will continue to appeal for the right to provide them with the best service, options and opportunity’.

The Competition Commission for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is also investigating if the agreement between CAF and Lagardère violates African Common Market regulations. It is understood that COMESA has the power to fine both parties up to 10% of its revenue, if it finds them guilty.

‘Everything has been done in compliance with the statutes of the CAF, laws and regulations in this matter’, read a 14 March statement from the CAF. The CAF has also opened disciplinary proceedings against Philip Chiyangwa, President of the Zimbabwean FA and the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA). The statement said that Chiyangwa had ‘multiplied actions and statements recently that appears to attack the honour of the CAF, its president and the members of the Executive Committee’, after Chiyangwa had criticised CAF members for not standing up to Hayatou.

Hayatou was appointed as FIFA’s Acting President following the provisional suspension of Joseph Blatter, and in December 2015 was forced to answer questions about whether he had received allegedly illicit payments from FIFA’s broadcasting partner, International Sports & Leisure (ISL) in the 1990s. “ISL offered 100,000 French Francs – which is about US$16,000 – to help pay for the 40th anniversary party of the Confederation of African Football”, he explained. “This is recorded in the finances of the CAF. The IOC blamed me for that. I did not take a cent.” Hayatou was sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2011 over the payment.

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