The telecast of the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 has been cast into doubt as the Confederation of African Football finds itself entangled in a legal dispute following the unilateral cancellation of its largest broadcast deal with the Qatari media group beIN.
On September 1st, CAF’s legal team informed beIN Media Group, the owner of beIN Sports, that it was immediately terminating the 12-year contract signed in 2017, valued at a staggering $415m.
CAF alleges that beIN has breached the contract and seeks to recover approximately $80m in unpaid fees.
In response, the Qatar-based media conglomerate has acknowledged “a number of issues that have affected the contractual relationship” and has warned CAF of its intent to pursue legal action unless an equitable resolution can be reached.
“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 members on September 2nd.
“I must make clear to you that beIN does not accept this termination and will take all necessary legal steps to challenge and overturn it.
“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.”
BeIN has raised concerns about the termination process, asserting that it may have been conducted unlawfully without the required scrutiny and approvals outlined in CAF’s internal regulations. This potential procedural irregularity could further fuel the legal battle. Notably, this marks the second time in four years that CAF has unilaterally scrapped a major contract, with the previous cancellation costing them a substantial settlement.
In November 2019, the decision to scrap the largest contract in CAF history – a television and marketing rights deal, which guaranteed at least $1bn, signed with Lagardere Sports to cover 2017-2028 – cost the Cairo-based body some $50m, a sum which has been settled in the last year.
Now known as Sport5, Lagardere Sports had originally requested $90m 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.
Both cancellations have come at a time when Fifa has wielded considerable control over Caf, which broke the Lagardere deal when Fifa Secretary General Fatma Samoura was overseeing the African body in her unique six-month role as a ‘General Delegate for Africa’.
More recently, Fifa has worked to not only engineer the election of Patrice Motsepe as Caf president in 2021 – saying the decision was for ‘African unity’ – but also to try to drum up funds for the continent through the launch of the looming African Football League.
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.
This predicament extends to CAF’s other continental competitions, the Champions League and Confederation Cup, both set to commence in November. Additionally, the newly established African Football League is slated to begin before these events.