- New club competition delayed until 2024/25,
- Slimmed-down tournament to be staged next season
- Prize fund of US$100m has been promised for competing teams
Saudi Arabia is in discussions with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to sponsor the newly launched African Super League in a deal worth US$200 million, according to The Guardian.
Plans for the continental competition were first unveiled last August, with the intention to launch the tournament next season. A prize fund of US$100 million was promised for competing teams, with the winning team to pocket US$11.6 million, which is about US$8 million more than what the champions of the African Champions League currently earn. The 54 member associations of CAF were also set to net US$1 million per year from the Super League, with the money to help federations boost the development of the sport in their respective country.
The Guardian reports that the tournament’s start will be delayed until the 2024/25 season, when the Saudi sponsorship deal is expected to commence. Meanwhile, a smaller version of the competition is being planned for next season, with eight teams to compete between October and November.
According to the report, discussions with the Gulf nation are said to have been ongoing for some time. Earlier this month, a five-year cooperation and development agreement was signed by CAF and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF). The partnership is expected to yield ‘growth ‘opportunities for African and Saudi Arabian football’. These include initiatives focused on technical development at grassroots, club and national-team levels, as well as commercial opportunities.
“CAF is excited to work together and partner with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to develop and grow football on our continent and globally,” said Patrice Motsepe, CAF president, at the time.
“There are also specific areas for mutually beneficial partnerships that we are discussing and announcements will be made in due course.”
CAF has been in financial turmoil ever since a US$1 billion rights agreement with media agency Lagardère was terminated back in 2019. The African body’s governance has also been hit by a series of scandals, with Fifa general secretary Fatma Samoura parachuted in by the game’s global governing body to smooth over the issues in 2019. This led to allegations that Fifa was overreaching in its control of CAF.
While CAF would undoubtedly gain from Saudi investment for its flagship club soccer proposal, the Gulf nation could see the deal as an opportunity to covet support for a future bid to host the Fifa World Cup.
Last month, CAF unanimously agreed to support the joint bid between Morocco, Spain and Portugal for the 2030 World Cup. Saudi Arabia was also keen to stage the tournament that year in a joint approach with Egypt and Greece, but Egypt’s sports minister Ashraf Sobhly ruled out a bid for the competition last month.
The Guardian now reports that the Gulf state considers an approach for the 2034 edition a more viable possibility. Having already being confirmed as the host of the 2023 Club World Cup, Saudi Arabia clearly sees investment in a competition already backed by Fifa president Gianni Infantino, as a persuasive move to win over support from both the African continent and soccer’s governing body.