CAIRO: International media agency Lagardere is to fight a decision by the FIFA-bossed Confederation of African Football to terminate a $1bn rights agreement nine years early.
The 12-year agreement, which both parties signed in 2015, and extended beyond its initial eight years in 2016, handed over CAF’s media and sponsorship sales rights globally until 2028, including the Africa Cup of Nations, the Africans Nations Championship, and the CAF Champions League.
Veteran Cameroonian Issa Hayatou was president of CAF at the time but was subsequently ousted by Ahmed Ahmed who had promised to review the Lagardere deal.
The cancellation decision comes amid an ongoing investigation launched by the Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Competition Commission in February 2017 into alleged anti-competitive agreements between CAF and its various stakeholders.
At the time, an investigation by the Egyptian Competition Authority claimed that the Lagardere deal had been completed without giving competitors an opportunity to bid for the contract. The CCC’s s subsequent investigation raised concerns over the length of the deal.
In November 2018, Hayatou and the then CAF secretary general Hicham El Amrani were fined $27.9m each by the Cairo Economic Court for their roles in the agreement. They denied wrongdoing.
On Tuesday CAF gave notice of cancellation.
Lagardere said: “At a meeting held today, the Confederation of African Football informed Lagardere Sports of its unilateral decision to cancel the agency agreement binding the two companies to 2028. The cancellation is to take effect immediately.
“Lagardere strongly contests this decision, which, in its view, is unlawful, unreasonable and unjustified. Lagardere maintains that there is no reason including the ongoing investigation by the Comesa Competition Commission, which has yet to issue its decision to cancel the agreement at this stage.
“Lagardere deeply regrets this situation and has asked the CAF to adopt a more reasonable position and honour its commitments.
“The CAF has a responsibility to support Lagardere Sports in the ongoing procedure before the CCC with a view to maintaining the agreement, adjusted, as necessary, following discussions with the authorities, in their common interest and in the interests of African football.
“Failing this, Lagardere will take any and all action to defend its interests and obtain compensation for any harm it may suffer.”
The cancellation of the Lagardere deal comes months after PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was selected to support a CAF reform process being overseen by world soccer governing body Fifa and appears to be the latest move designed to clean up African football governance.
FIFA parachuted in its general secretary Fatma Samoura to take over running CAF for an initial six months.
Ahmad himself is under preliminary investigation by the FIFA Ethics Commission and French anti-corruption authorities. Ahmad was arrested in June over allegations financial mismanagement and sexual harassment before later being released.
Additionally, earlier this month, all 54 CAF associations agreed to permit FIFAa to market the media rights for their 2022 World Cup qualifying fixtures.