New CAF broom to sweep clean

The new president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), 57-year-old Ahmad Ahmad, this week tendered his resignation as vice-chair of the Madagascar Senate, vacating an office he has occupied since February 2016 to focus on his new job.

Soon after resigning from his daily work in Antananarivo, Ahmad gave an indication of his priorities when he confirmed that the new CAF executive would meet within a fortnight to embark on the process of bringing in a crack team of auditors to check the finances of the continental football organisation.

Ahmad unseated Cameroonian septuagenarian Issa Hayatou in a shock result that also saw Hayatou’s loyalists voted out.

The future is uncertain for both Hayatou and CAF secretary general Hicham El Amrani. The long-serving CAF head faces criminal charges from the Egyptian Competition Authority and from the Presentation Sports company, which complained bitterly about his awarding of a 12-year television broadcasting rights package to French-based company Lagardère for $1‑billion.

Hayatou and Amrani are alleged to have refused or failed to open the tender process for the media rights to all the CAF properties while illegally awarding the rights to Lagardère until 2028, and are now facing criminal charges by the Egyptian prosecutions office.

“The issue here is not just the TV broadcast rights that were secretly awarded to Lagardère,” said Liberian Football Association President Musa Bility, who has also been voted on to the new executive. “But the contents of both the Total and Orange sponsorships must be thoroughly scrutinised as well.

“Only a few trusted lieutenants of Hayatou knew the contents of the contracts but as you heard our new president, Ahmad, [say] he promised to run a transparent government that would be accountable and open to scrutiny at all times,” added Bility.

It has now also emerged that Hayatou turned down an initial offer of $600‑million from Cairo-based Presentation Sports to buy the television rights to broadcast CAF properties in Egypt.

“A second proposition of $650‑million to purchase the rights and broadcast them in the Middle East and parts of North Africa was also turned down, as well as a fourth offer of $1.2‑billion to broadcast all over the world,” said a spokesperson for the Presentation Sports company.

It is unclear why CAF accepted an offer from Lagardère that was $200‑million less than Presentation Sport’s bid. There is, however, speculation that it is linked to Hayatou’s eldest son being managing director in SportsFive, a subsidiary company of Lagardère, and that there was nepotism involved in the awarding of the rights.

The beleaguered CAF has denied accusations of violating competition regulations, saying that the executive committee agreed to renew the contract with Lagardère Sports for the 2017-2028 cycles “after evaluating the different offers submitted, and in strict compliance with the existing contractual clauses.

“CAF wishes to point out that the contract with Lagardère Sports does not contravene national or supranational legislation,” the continental organisation said.

Its statement added that the contract with Lagardère guaranteed African football a substantial increase in revenues and funding for its development on the continent.

Although Lagardère is not being investigated by the Egyptian Competition Authority, the company stressed that CAF had renewed its appointment in accordance with the clearly defined renewal process.

“A legally binding agreement was signed by the parties in June 2015 and was unanimously approved by the CAF executive committee,” Lagardère said.

“Any allegations that the agreement breaches local Egyptian competition laws are wholly unfounded and we have clear and categorical legal advice to that effect,” the company’s statement added.

Politics is politics and football is football, but in Egypt they are rarely far apart.

The next few days are going to be exciting as the world watches how the newly appointed Ahmad negotiates his way through such a mine field.

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