Lagardère loses CAF emergency arbitration but will pursue compensation

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has rejected Lagardère Sports’ application for interim emergency measures in the agency’s dispute with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) over the cancellation of a 12-year global media and sponsorship rights contract.

The Geneva-based body rebuffed the agency’s bid and ordered it to pay the costs of the arbitration proceedings and contribute over €60,000 ($66,800) towards CAF’s legal costs, according to the soccer confederation.

Lagardère said the initiation of the emergency proceedings was “aimed at keeping the contract in force pending the arbitration on merits”.

CAF last month informed Lagardère of its decision to cancel the $1bn agreement, which was due to run from 2017 to 2028 in a move described by the France-based conglomerate as “unlawful, unreasonable and unjustified”.

The agency has vowed to pursue compensation from CAF and said that the rejection by the ICC would not preclude it from doing so.

Lagardère said today (Monday): “On December 13th, while the emergency arbitrator rejected these interim measures, he did not rule on the merits of the case as this was not within his remits. Consequently, the outcome of the emergency proceedings does not in any way predetermine the outcome of any future arbitration on the merits of the case.

“Under these conditions, Lagardère will steadfastly continue as planned to proceed with the broader, more encompassing arbitration (arbitration on merits) to obtain compensation from CAF.”

Properties covered by the CAF contract include the flagship Africa Cup of Nations, the Africans Nations Championship and the CAF Champions League. The deal has long been a controversial one and has been the subject of investigations by the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) and the Competition Commission of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (CCC).

It has also been the subject of much scrutiny since Ahmad Ahmad deposed Issa Hayatou as CAF president in March 2017.

In welcoming the ICC’s ruling, CAF said that: “Lagardère Sports alleged that CAF had unlawfully terminated this contract and asked, among other things, that CAF be required to immediately reinstate the contract.

“In the decision, notified on 13th December 2019, the emergency arbitrator considered the reasons why CAF terminated the agreement, and rejected all the requests of Lagardère Sports.”

The football body added: “With the support of Fifa, CAF will continue to stand up for the rights of football fans who want to be able to watch African football in their respective countries, and CAF will also safeguard the rights of genuine commercial partners who want to see a healthy, competitive and transparent football business environment in Africa.”

The termination of the CAF agreement would mean Lagardère is deprived of two contracts previously regarded as the two ‘crown jewels’ of the division. The Asian Football Confederation business will end next year after DDMC Fortis won the contract from 2021 to 2028.

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