Is African football set for cash injection?

Caf president Issa Hayatou

African football's long-standing relationship with the French marketing company Sportfive has just got even considerably longer.

The two have extended their agreement over television and marketing for a further 12 years, singing a contract until 2028.

The Confederation of African Football says the deal is worth a US$1bn, although how they arrive at the figure remains unclear as full details of the deals between African football's governing body and its marketing partner have never been made public.

But if the number is accurate it will suggest a 10-fold increase in income for the African game over the next decade, holding out the possibility for a substantive boost in monies earned by both national associations and clubs.

This has the potential to lead to massive improvements for the African game.

At the last Caf Congress in Cairo in April, there was talk among officials of a massive hike in prize money for the African Champions League, where the winner currently earns US$1.5m (the same amount each year since 2009). But little was even formally discussed at the Congress itself.

The only mention came in the financial report in which Caf president Issa Hayatou said: "Considering the work done the last few years, the television viewing figures of Caf competitions and the growing interest of international partners, Caf is confident in its future, allowing the increase of funds and support to Caf member associations."

The last deal between Caf and Sportfive signed in 2010 was worth around $140m over seven years.

Sportfive, part of Lagardere Sports, paid $46.8m for four successive editions of the Africa Cup of Nations finals, starting with the 2010 tournament in Angola to the 2015 finals in Equatorial Guinea.

Up to 2008, Caf earned $55.m every two years for Nations Cup rights.

Entente Setif crowned 2014 Champions League winners
Entente Setif were crowned 2014 Champions League winners

A seven-year deal for the rights to the Champions League and the African Confederation Cup, the two annual club competitions, earns Caf $71.4m through until 2017.

Previously African football's governing body was paid $5m annually for the club competition rights and before 1997 did not get a single cent.

Caf's latest financial report, which was presented at April's Congress in Cairo, said that in 2014 the organisation received $43m from revenue from competitions, in turn distributing $33m thereof.

Sportfive not only have the rights to the Caf tournaments but also now communal hold over the Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers.

Previously these were the preserve of the individual countries who could sell the broadcast rights of their home matches but very few were able to take advantage of this.

Now, all rights are sold communally by Sportfive and the income distributed proportionally across all participating countries. Subsequently a lot more of the qualifiers are being broadcast.

But Sportfive is regularly criticised for the steep payment it demands of African broadcasters to televise the games and in many countries, national broadcasters cannot afford to show matches involving their own national teams. Instead this market is now dominated by satellite broadcasters.

Sportfive's relationship with Caf stems from the days when Jean Claude Darmon focused his attention on the continent and took over the initial, but not too successful, marketing efforts of the Swiss-based company ISL.

The flamboyant Algerian-born entrepreneur flew into tournaments in a private jet with a coterie of exotic hangers-on and had a cosy relationship with Hayatou.

The Groupe Darmon was later bought out, but his former assistant Idriss Akki stayed to guide the relationship, and is a regular face at all Caf events.

The Franco-Moroccan, now the head of the Africa division at Sportfive, was ranked by the magazine 'France Football' among the most influential behind-the-scenes personalities in African football.

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