The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has won a major court victory for its decision to cancel the US$1 billion media and marketing rights deal with Lagardere Sports with the French marketing agency also ordered to pay $69,000 in legal costs to Africa’s football governing.
The ruling was delivered by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Geneva on Friday after Lagardere reported CAF to the Swiss-based organization last month claiming the Cairo-based continental football governing body had ‘unlawfully and unilaterally’ cancelled their 20-year contract.
Lagardere had asked the ICC to rule in its favour and order CAF to reinstate it as its exclusive media and marketing agency even though the contract was signed under for an uninterrupted 20-year period without any open tender.
But the international court for settling trade disputes disagreed with Lagardere and ruled that CAF had no choice but to cancel the deal the contract signed under controversial circumstances after two major court judgments went against it.
The ICC ruling on Friday on the case 24925-DDA (EA) which was ruled under the Emergency Arbitrator proceedings puts an end to the dispute with CAF walking away without any negative consequences.
The 12-year agreement, which CAF and Lagardere signed in 2015, and extended beyond its initial eight years in 2016, handed over CAF’s media and sponsorship sales rights globally until 2028, including the Africa Cup of Nations, the Africans Nations Championship, and the CAF Champions League.
CAF and Lagardère announced the “landmark” agreement (an extension of a previous deal running from 2009 to 2016) in the middle of 2015 under then CAF President Issa Hayatou who said that CAF had “appreciated and is very satisfied” with the agency’s performance.
However last year a Cairo court ruled that the agreement signed under Hayatou breached Egyptian competition rules because Lagardere was appointed as CAF's exclusive agent for marketing and media rights for an uninterrupted 20-year period without any open tender.
The court fined African football's ruling body 100 million Egyptian pounds (US$6.2 million).
The Competition Commission of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (CCC) had also found in 2017 that the agreement infringed competition regulations.
Properties covered by the contract include CAF’s flagship Africa Cup of Nations, the Africans Nations Championship and the CAF Champions League, the CAF Confederation Cup, the Women's Africa Cup of Nations and many other youth competitions.
The deal has long been a controversial one after coming under pressure from competition probes and the cancellation is seen by many as CAF’s latest move designed to clean up the image of African football governance.