Egypt’s competition authority files case against head of African football confederation

The Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) referred the head of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Issa Hayatou, to the public prosecutor Tuesday, on charges of misusing his position to allocate broadcasting rights to league coverage.

The competition watchdog charged Hayatou of breaking Article 8 of competition law, which stipulates that it is illegal to favor certain clients in such agreements.

The CAF awarded French group Lagardère exclusivity to broadcast the African Cup for the next 12 years, starting in 2017, following a similar eight-year agreement that ended in late 2016, according to an official statement, which explained the CAF “deliberately ignored several requests to open up broadcasting rights to tender in a way that would ensure fair competition and transparency.”

Egyptian sports marketing agency Presentation reportedly approached CAF and French client Lagardère, which resold its rights to Qatari state-owned Bein Sports, over the last year in the hope of purchasing the broadcasting rights, but was told by the African confederation that negotiations for a new contract were pending the end of the existing agreement, according to a statement published by the privately owned Youm7 newspaper in September 2016.

Presentation initially offered US$600 million for broadcasting rights in the Middle East and North Africa for 12 years, before raising its bid to $750 million, hoping to convince Lagardère to sell them the broadcasting rights to African competitions, including the African Cup of Nations, to no avail.

“We decided to continue knocking on all doors and to insist on following all legal routes to defend the rights of African football,” Presentation said in September.

The Egyptian company, Presentation, co-owned by business tycoon Ahmed Abu Hashima, offered US$1.2 billion for global marketing rights to the African Cup, in direct competition with the French company, outbidding it by $200 million, but reportedly received no response.

CAF’s media office was not available to respond to Mada Masr’s inquiries.

The Egyptian Competition Authority added in an announcement on Tuesday that it plans to terminate the agreement between the CAF and Lagardère concerning the Egyptian market. The CPA also obliged CAF to surrender broadcasting rights for the African Cup within Egypt to the Egyptian company that applied.

The CPA justified its position by referring to the CAF’s agreement with the Egyptian government, which requires it be subject to the country’s competition law. Moreover, in response to rumors that the CAF plans to relocate its headquarters out of Egypt, the CPA said this would require the approval of 75 percent of the 56 member countries.

Hayatou has faced corruption charges previously, which he denies. The International Olympic Committee rebuked him in 2011 for a payment he received from the sports marketing company ISL between 1989 and 1999. According to the IOC, Hayatou admitted he received a payment, but denied any corruption, saying the money was a gift for his confederation, according to the BBC. Hayatou was also accused of taking bribes related to Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, which he also denied.

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