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Chaos guaranteed as Caf members decentralise World Cup qualifier rights

African football federations have opted to sell media rights to their 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers individually, moving away from the centralised model used for the previous two cycles.

Widening political splits within the Confederation of African Football and a lack of consensus on media-rights strategy and revenue-sharing have led to the decision, made during a Caf Extraordinary General Assembly last week.

A 12-year deal with the Lagardère Sports agency for rights to Caf-operated tournaments and qualifiers (not including World Cup qualifiers) has come under fire from Caf’s current leadership, who believe they can renegotiate the deal and earn more money.

African federations in more developed media markets are keen to sell individually – especially those in South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt – as they believe they could earn more for their qualifier rights this way.

Caf World Cup qualifiers have been sold collectively in at least the last two cycles. Qualifiers to the 2014 and 2018 World Cups were acquired in joint deals by the Sportfive and B4 Capital agencies. These deals excluded South Africa’s World Cup qualifiers, which were sold separately by the South African Football Association.

Caf has 54 member associations, and its World Cup qualifying tournament has historically consisted of multiple rounds – two preliminary knockout rounds for lower-ranked teams, followed by a third-round group stage consisting of higher-ranked teams and preliminary round winners. As such, many governing bodies will be forced to sell rights on a match-by-match basis.

The format of Caf’s 2022 World Cup qualifying tournament is yet to be decided but it is expected to adhere to a similar or identical format. This means the value of each national governing body’s rights will largely depend on their Caf ranking and, for higher-ranked nations, the teams they will share a group with.