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Does the end of Hayatou also spell the end for Lagardère and its $1bn rights package?

Published on: 17 March 2017
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With Issa Hayatou no longer president of the Confederation of African Football and the future of CAF general secretary Hicham El Amrani uncertain under the incoming presidency, there is also a question over whether the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) and Presentation Sports will continue with their complaint against CAF over the award of a 12-year marketing rights package to Lagardère Sports for $1 billion.

Hayatou and El Amrani are accused of failing to open up the tender for the media rights to CAF competitions in Africa for the next 12 years up to 2028. They are facing a criminal trial referred by the Egyptian Prosecutor’s Office on March 7, for allegedly engaging in anti-competitive practices – initial court hearings started on Monday, March 13, the week of CAF’s elections.

At the root of the claims is an internationally unknown Egyptian company Presentation Sports, who claim they submitted several propositions to CAF for the rights including:

“ – First proposition with an amount of $600,000,000 dollars (only 600 million US dollars) for the purchase of television broadcasting rights and to broadcast in Egypt only.

“- Second proposition with an amount of $650,000,000 dollars (only six hundred and fifty million dollars) to purchase those rights and to broadcast in Egypt only.

“ – Third proposition with an amount of $750,000,000 (only seven hundred and fifty million dollars) for the purchase of television broadcasting rights and to broadcast in the Middle East region and North Africa.

“ – Fourth proposition with an amount of $1,200, 000,000 (only one billion and 200 million US dollars) to purchase both types of rights and to broadcast all over the world.”

A few days after submitting their bid, CAF awarded the rights to Lagardère for the 12 years to 2028 with an option to extend to 2036.

The timing of the Presentation Sports complaint has been viewed by most within CAF as being politically motivated, with what has been described as “a trial by media” in the run up to the CAF elections for president this week.

Egypt has been a strong supporter of Hayatou’s challenger Ahmad Ahmad who won the election earlier today (Thursday). CAF accused the Egyptians of trying to destabilise the confederation in advance the voting.

Presentation Sports represents the rights of Egyptian Football Premiere League, The Cup of Egypt and The Arab Championship for the First Division clubs, but has virtually no international presence outside Egypt though says it has a relationship with the MediaPro sports rights agency.

The CAF contract was for representation of rights within the African continent and globally. It is unclear whether the reported $1 billion deal with Lagardère was a minimum guarantee or an all-rights acquisition, but with Presentation Sports’ focus very much on the Egyptian market, there would be nothing to prevent Lagardère doing a deal for Egyptian rights with them.

Presentation Sports has been reported as being jointly owned by Egyptian FA president Hany Abu Rida and the Egyptian military. A report that is denied by the company’s representatives who say they “do not own any shares in the company. The company is owned by Mr. Ahmed Abou Hashima who is an Egyptian businessman owning a majority share of the company. The other shareholder is Mr. Mohamed Kamel.”

While Presentation Sports claims this is a commercial dispute only and not politically motivated, it says it did petition “the FIFA Ethics Committee and the FIFA Review Committee to exclude Hayatou and El Amrani from the list of candidates for re-election for the CAF Executive Committee”.  Technically neither were standing for CAF’s exco, and El Amrani was not actually standing for election to any CAF body as he is a staff member of the administration.

One area of concern in the complaint is the assertion that Lagardère had no right to sell broadcast packages to the Qatari-owned BeIN Sports Channels before renewing their contract with CAF. This is not necessarily unusual in international broadcast sales as agents seek to get the best deals for their clients. However, identifying the BeIN Sports deal only and the channel’s affiliation to the Al Jazeera channel, raised another political issue within Egypt whose government has frequently accused the news channel of trying to destabilise the country and has imprisoned its journalists, in some cases for more than a year, on dubious charges related to political insurgency.

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

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