Fifa makes ‘landmark’ live streaming move for CAF’s World Cup qualifiers

World football’s governing body Fifa has announced that it will live stream several of the first round of Confederation of African Football qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup as part of a “landmark” initiative.

The first round of CAF qualifiers for Qatar 2022 will feature 28 teams competing for 14 slots in the group stage, where the 26 top-ranked teams await. These opening fixtures include local rivalries between 2019 Africa Cup of Nations participants Burundi and Tanzania and a West African derby between Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Fifa today said fans around the world will be able to watch several of the first-round ties from September 4-10, through the federation investing in the production of the broadcast feed.

The live streams and on-demand replays of these first-round matches will be provided on Fifa.com and Fifa’s YouTube channel. Fifa said in a statement: “Bringing this exciting action to a global audience for the first time underscores Fifa’s ongoing digital transformation and its ongoing efforts to support football development in Africa and connect more fans with the beautiful game.”

Today’s announcement is set against the background of uncertainty surrounding CAF’s commercial rights. Fifa stated last month that if CAF hands over centralised rights to World Cup qualifiers it can double the revenue African football’s governing body currently earns from the property.

Fifa general secretary Fatma Samoura wrote to the CAF member nations, calling on them to sign a mandate that would allow Fifa to collectively sell their media rights for qualifying matches to the 2022 and 2026 editions of football’s showpiece event.

Centralised rights to CAF qualifiers to the 2014 and 2018 World Cups were sold by CAF to agencies Sportfive – now Lagardère Sports – and B4 Capital. But following the 2018 World Cup, African nations announced that they would be opting to sell media rights individually after having centralised the sales process in the two previous cycles.

In her letter, Samoura wrote that Fifa believes it could double the revenues generated for qualifying matches to the 2026 World Cup when compared to the 2018 qualifiers.

The mandate outlined how Fifa intends to centralise the rights with the governing body saying that it will redistribute net revenues to the member nations and that the amount returned to CAF nations will be decided “following consultation” and “after deduction of relevant expenses, such as production and sales costs.”

The Lagardère Sports-B4 agreement for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers was announced eight years ago by CAF as a $23m (€20.6m) agreement covering centralised broadcast and sponsorship rights. The distribution of rights by the two agencies excluded South Africa’s qualifying matches which were sold by the South African Football Association.