The Confederation of African Football (Caf) could well enter another costly legal process after unilaterally cancelling its current biggest broadcast deal with Qatari media group beIN.
On 1 September, Caf’s lawyers informed beIN Media Group, which owns the beIN Sports broadcasting division, it was cancelling the 12-year contract, signed in 2017 and worth $415m, with immediate effect.
Caf has accused beIN of a contractual breach and said it wants to recover outstanding payments in the region of $80m.
The Qatar-based media group has responded by acknowledging “a number of issues that have affected the contractual relationship” and advising African football’s ruling body of its intention to sue unless “open discussions in good faith [can] resolve this issue”.
“We are, of course, taking all necessary steps to robustly defend our legal position,” Yousef Al-Obaidly wrote to both Caf and its executive committee members on 2 September.
“I must make clear to you that beIN does not accept this termination and will take all necessary legal steps to challenge and overturn it.
“In addition, we have significant concerns that this major decision relating to Caf’s most valuable commercial contract may have been taken without the necessary scrutiny and approvals required under Caf’s internal regulations.”
In contrast to Caf statutes which require major financial decisions to be discussed by the body’s executive committee, BBC Sport Africa understands this did not happen – with Caf having been approached for comment.
BeIN hinted it may cite this unlawful process as one reason to legally contest the termination, as well as fundamentally arguing against the very nature of the decision itself.
It is the second time in four years that Caf has unilaterally cancelled a contract with its biggest financial partner.
In November 2019, the decision to scrap the largest contract in Caf history – a television and marketing rights deal, which guaranteed at least $1bn, signed with Lagardere Sports to cover 2017-2028 – cost the Cairo-based body some $50m, a sum which has been settled in the last year.
Now known as Sport5, Lagardere Sports had originally requested $90m in compensation.
A source close to the matter has told the BBC that beIN will be chasing a similar amount, albeit before damages are also claimed.
Both cancellations have come at a time when Fifa has wielded considerable control over Caf, which broke the Lagardere deal when Fifa Secretary General Fatma Samoura was overseeing the African body in her unique six-month role as a ‘General Delegate for Africa’.
More recently, Fifa has worked to not only engineer the election of Patrice Motsepe as Caf president in 2021 – saying the decision was for ‘African unity’ – but also to try to drum up funds for the continent through the launch of the looming African Football League.
Earlier this year, former Caf president Ahmad told the BBC that Fifa is controlling African football for ‘strategic reasons’.
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