- BeIN Sports has held the rights since 2017
- CAF terminated US$1bn contract with Lagardère Sports in 2019
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has terminated its 12-year, US$415 million broadcast contract with BeIN Sports with immediate effect.
The deal, signed in 2017, is the federation’s most lucrative commercial contract and covers 40 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions, as well as France and the USA. Included are the rights to CAF’s international and club soccer tournaments, including the Africa Cup of Nations and the Champions League.
The partnership was set to run until 2028 but a long-running dispute over payments has led to a premature conclusion. According to the BBC, CAF opted to exit the arrangement with five years to run because of an alleged breach of contract and plans to recover up to US$80 million that it believes it is owed.
In response, BeIN acknowledged there had been a “number of issues” that had affected the relationship, particularly the postponement and rescheduling of matches at the men’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament due to Covid-19 and inclement weather.
The 2023 edition of the event was scheduled to take place this summer but was delayed until January 2024 due to concerns of severe rain in the Ivory Coast. These changes, BeIN argued, impacted the value of the rights and made it want to renegotiate.
The Qatar-based broadcaster said that unless there was an amicable resolution, it would be forced to take legal action. This means CAF could be forced to pay out compensation if its own claim isn’t successful.
This is the second time in four years that CAF has cancelled its biggest commercial contract. In 2019, the federation ended a US$1 billion television and marketing pact with Lagardère Sports after several courts found the deal – the most financially lucrative in CAF’s history – was anti-competitive.
The cancellation meant television production for several Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers was cancelled, while CAF was forced to pay US$50 million in compensation to the agency.
BeIN Sport, whose rights were originally sourced through the deal with Lagardère, opted to continue its arrangement and assumed the position of principal broadcaster. However, South African broadcaster Supersport withdrew, meaning there has been an effective blackout in sub-Saharan Africa since the termination.
This termination leaves CAF without a broadcast partner in key markets just four months before its flagship international competition is due to kick off.
No doubt the federation is confident of finding a replacement at relatively short notice, but a second major contract dispute in four years is notable given wider developments at a governance level.
The cancellation of the Lagardère deal accelerated growing ties between CAF and Fifa, with some believing the influence of the latter on the former has become disproportionately strong. Indeed, world soccer’s governing body has been instrumental in the new African Football League involving leading clubs from across the continent – separate from the CAF-run Champions League.
All eyes will be on CAF’s next move.