By Andrew Warshaw
January 6 – Veteran African football chief Issa Hayatou, who briefly ran FIFA after Sepp Blatter was forced out of office but who is no stranger himself to controversy, is back in the firing line for allegedly abusing his position.
Hayatou, president of the African Football Confederation, faces possible corruption charges in Egypt, where CAF is based, over a deal to unilaterally award broadcasting rights to the forthcoming African Nations Cup and other regional competitions to French-headquarterd ad agency Lagardère Sports.
According to the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA), Hayatou, still senior vice-president of FIFA and head of its finance committee, is suspected of failing to open up the tender to free and fair competition as required under Egyptian law.
It is alleged that in June Lagardère was awarded the rights for 12 years starting from 2017 at a price said to be worth $1 billion. Although Hayatou is not named personally, the ECA made its announcement under a headline that cited “the president of CAF”.
It claimed CAF renewed its relationship with Lagardère without giving other broadcasters a chance to bid alleging CAF was “abusing its dominant position” and mentioning five separate sections of Egyptian competition law that were apparently breached. Lagardère is not a broadcaster but would on-sell the rights to broadcasters on behalf of CAF.
Hayatou, CAF president since 1988, was in charge of FIFA from October 2015 when Blatter was suspended until Gianni Infantino’s election four months later.
In response to the allegations, CAF flatly denied that it had contravened any law in its award of broadcast rights to Lagardère.
‘‘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,” a statement said.
“This contract guarantees African football a substantial increase in revenues and substantial funding for the development of football on the continent. 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.”
Lagardère, for their part, argued that the 2017-28 contract with CAF was the renewal of a previous two-year deal.
“Although Lagardère Sports is not the subject of the correspondence from the Egyptian competition authorities, any allegations that the agreement breaches local Egyptian competition laws are wholly unfounded and we have clear and categorical legal advice to that effect,” a statement said.
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