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Caf rejects claims over Lagardère Sports contract

The Confederation of African Football has strongly denied allegations that it contravened competition regulations in awarding a major package of its rights and has refuted claims that president Issa Hayatou has been referred to prosecutors for investigation over the matter.

The Egyptian Competition Authority on Wednesday said it had referred Hayatou to the country’s general prosecutor after alleging that the award of the rights infringed regulations.

The ECA claimed that Hayatou violated aspects of the country’s Protection of Competition Act when the Sportfive agency was awarded worldwide rights to Caf events in 2015 without a formal tender process having taken place.

The Sportfive agency signed a 12-year renewal with Caf covering six Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournaments in 2017, 2019, 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027, as well as exclusive rights to Afcon qualifiers, the Caf Champions League and other second-tier properties, from 2017 to 2028.

In a statement, Cairo-headquartered CAF said: “False information, published in the Egyptian press since yesterday (Wednesday) and widely reported around the world, indicates a recommendation for prosecution of the president of the Confédération Africaine de Football to the Attorney General of Egypt on corruption charges.

“The said recommendation is supposed to be made by the Egyptian Competition Authority, which accuses Caf of violating the competition rules in Egypt regarding the procedure for the allocation of commercial rights for certain Caf competitions for the period 2017- 2028.

“It should be noted that in the letter sent to Caf by the Egyptian Competition Authority, there is no mention of any prosecution against the president of Caf, whether for acts of corruption or something else.”

As with previous Caf deals, no formal tender was issued for the rights and all negotiations took place in private. The Sportfive brand has since been phased out, with Lagardère’s sports-rights agencies falling under the Lagardère Sports brand.

The ECA suggested that Caf would have to unbundle rights across different platforms for future tournaments to meet competition regulations.

The Caf statement added: “Caf wishes to point out that the contract with Lagardère Sports does not contravene national or supranational legislation, as established by categorical legal opinions in this regard.

“The marketing zones for audiovisual rights do not apply only to Caf competitions, but correspond to a universally recognised division, notably in the marketing of the rights of sporting events.

“It should be noted that even for the Fifa World Cup, commercial rights are ceded for more than one edition in the Mena Zone (Middle East and North Africa). No marketing is done on a country-by-country basis. This is also valid for most European championships.”

In a statement provided to UK public-service broadcaster the BBC, Lagardère Sports said: “Any allegations that the agreement breaches local Egyptian competition laws are wholly unfounded and we have clear and categorical legal advice to that effect.”