African Super League: the new CAF competition tested by FIFA (By Thierno H. Bah)


In April 2021 several major European clubs announced the creation of a closed super league on the model of the American Major League Soccer (MLS). It is a concept of closed or semi-closed sporting competition between some of the most powerful football clubs on the European continent. It has been the subject of discussions since the 1990s. The objective of the participating clubs is none other than economic because according to theNew York Timessuch a league earns each team more than $400 million from participating in the competition.

UEFA, which was not associated with the project and which saw it as a threat to the old Champions League, did everything to ensure that the European super league did not see the light of day. FIFA is not to be outdone and it had made it known via a press release, in which it said that « FIFA can only disapprove of a closed and dissident European League outside the structures of football ». The press release adds: « FIFA wishes to clarify that it is firmly positioned in favor of solidarity in football and a model of fair distribution », « FIFA is always positioned in favor of unity in world football and calls on all parties involved in heated discussions to engage in a calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of this game.”

As can be seen, FIFA is largely opposed to the creation of a European super league. On the other hand, concerning Africa, the paradigm is changing.

BIRTH OF THE AFRICAN SUPERLEAGUE

CAF unveiled on August 10 its Super League project which will be operational from the 2023-2024 season, it is anew competitionwhich is called theCAF Super League. In Arusha, Tanzania, on the sidelines of its General Assembly, the African body unveiled the tournament with the blessing of FIFA, which should bring in $200 million for the continent.24 clubs from 16 countries will play itand will get $100 million in total. Or 3.5 million dollars per club to start, while the winner will be rewarded up to 11.6 million dollars.

Among the objectives of the Super League we find in particular the need tofind more resources for member associations. Thus, each Federation will obtain 1 million dollars annually to carry out development projects. There is also 50 million dollars to be shared to increase the bonuses of other CAF competitions, Champions League and Confederation Cup in mind.

“The African Super League is one of the most exciting developments in African football history and the objective in terms of what we are trying to achieve is very clear, the first is to ensure that club football Africans is world class and rivals the best in the world,” said Patrice MOTSEPE, CAF President.

The body has confirmed that the competition will oppose the 24 best clubs on the continent, from 16 different countries. These teams will first be divided during a first phase into three geographical groups each composed of 8 teams (North Africa, Central and West Africa, and South and East Africa). During this, the 8 clubs of each group will be opposed in round-trip matches and each formation will therefore play 14 matches during this first phase.

At the end of this group phase, the first 5 of each pool and the best 6th in all groups will take part in the knockout phase from the round of 16 which will mark the end of the geographical distribution. At the end of the course, at the end of May, the grand final will be held, baptized by CAF in its teaser the « African Super Bowl« .

A total of 197 matches will be scheduled between August and May each year and the prize money of the competition (money distributed to participants) will amount to 100 million dollars. Thanks to the income generated and with the support of FIFA, CAF plans to pay one million dollars annually to each of its 54 member associations but also to supply its development fund to the tune of 50 million dollars.

On paper, the project looks great and the African federations always quick to say amen whenever we talk about big money will only see positive things in the project.

INFANTINO’s support

Beyond the amounts announced and all the folklore that there was in Arusha, what is surprising is the official support of Gianni INFANTINO, President of FIFA for the creation of this African super league, when he is officially opposed to the European Super League. “This project is historic. It was the first Confederation to adopt this project and take an interest in it. The dream will come true in August 2023 and this project will benefit the continent,” he said. A video spot unveiled on the sidelines of the ceremony gives some details on the course of the competition.

Also, the question of the financing of the said league remains a mystery because the finances are at their lowest. “CAF’s financial situation remains too fragile, hence the need to implement reforms. We need to make the necessary courageous changes at the level of competitions. And with the supervision of FIFA, we hope that we will bring more flow, more money for CAF, allowing it to play its role which is the development of football beyond the organization of competitions,  » declared Fouzi LEKJAA, president of the FRMF (Royal Moroccan Football Federation) and of the CAF Finance Committee.

Colonization, Laboratory and distrust

It must be noted that this creation is not to everyone’s taste. “There is no evidence that an African Super League will benefit football in Africa unless it benefits a very few and while diluting the value of professional leagues seen as beneficial,” a statement said. , the South African Professional Footballers Union (SAFPU).

We can deduce from this that the practices of Mr. INFANTINO vis-à-vis the CAF are considered by many observers as a kind of colonization. The elective congress that brought Mr. MOTSEPE to the head of the governing body of the African football confederation is an illustration of this. Moreover, Mr. MOTSEPE did not fail to promise Mr. INFANTINO that the 54 CAF federations will vote for him at the next FIFA elective congress.

On the other hand, it is difficult to understand that the same INFANTINO who categorically refused the European superleague is the godfather of the African superleague. He is also not on his first try because it was he who worked to move the dates of the CAN from January to June, without taking into account the vagaries of the continent’s climate. He had also conveyed a proposal to go from 2 to 4 years for the organization of the African Cup of Nations, to name a few.

If on the whole we can say that the forecasts lend themselves to optimism, there are many gray areas in this super league. We can fear in particular the abandonment of other African club competitions and in particular the Champions League. There are also the difficulties of attracting sponsors and the global broadcasting of matches. Funding based on contributions from FIFA does not have solid guarantees for a confederation like CAF.

In any case, the future will tell us about the evolution of this new competition.

Thierno Hamidou BAH

Legal Consultant

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