By Paul Nicholson
March 20 – The Egyptian prosecution of former Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Issa Hayatou over the award of CAF’s media and commercial rights to Lagardère Sports will continue, promised a legal spokesperson for Presentation Sports. This is despite Hayatou having lost the presidency of CAF to Madagascar’s Ahmad Ahmad last Thursday.
“Presentation Sports will continue with its criminal proceedings against Issa Hayatou because the crime itself and the sanction for it are personal,” said an emailed statement to Insideworldfootball.
The prosecution of CAF may be dropped however, if the African confederation pulls out of the Lagardère deal and, presumably, hands the rights over to Presentation Sports or re-tenders them on the open market.
“The continuation of the civil proceedings against CAF will depend on CAF’s compliance with the rules of law and the decisions related to the media rights,” said the legal spokesperson.
Hayatou has maintained that the Egyptian lawsuit was only intended to destabilise CAF and his presidential bid in the run-up to the elections.
But Presentation Sports appears to be aiming for the legal and moral high ground, saying: “In all circumstances, it is for the sake of the game, fans, and African nations as well as economic entities that Presentation Sports is interested in that the marketing of such rights be in the context of justice, law and transparency rather than by court decisions and administrative decisions.”
The rights deal agreed between CAF and Lagardère was for $1 billion for the 12 years to 2028, with an option to extend to 2036.
Presentation Sports maintain that it offered CAF separate proposals for Egypt-only rights, Middle East and Africa rights, and worldwide rights. It says its global offer was for $1.2 billion, $200 million more than the deal agreed with Lagardère.
It is this claim that Presentation Sports says triggered the Egyptian Economic Court to open proceedings on the basis that CAF, which is headquartered in Egypt, failed to open up the tender to free and fair competition as required under Egyptian law.
The timing of the proceedings was regarded by most CAF insiders as being politically motivated. Egypt was a strong supporter of Ahmad in the election race and politics and football in the country are very closely linked.
But there is a point of law that can be argued if Egyptian law is agreed to be the prevailing legal jurisdiction for CAF’s commercial agreements.
Presentation Sports is an Egyptian broadcast production company operating domestically and representing the rights of the Egyptian Football Premiere League, The Cup of Egypt and The Arab Championship for the First Division clubs. The company does not have an international sales division though says it has a relationship with the Spanish MediaPro sports rights agency. Mediapro have been silent on that relationship and it is unclear whether their involvement in the pitch for CAF rights involved putting up a guarantee.
What is not clear is whether the deals offered to CAF by either Lagardère or Presentation Sports were based on minimum guarantees with a revenue share after the guarantees were met, or whether they were an all-rights acquisition.
CAF countered the Egyptian accusations saying that the offer was submitted by Presentation Sports in September 2016, 15 months after the signature of the contract with Lagardère. CAF further maintains that the Presentation Sports offer “materially and substantially fell short of the financial, technical, execution and other requirements commonly expected and required for deals of this nature in the sports media industry.
“Most significantly and in addition to the previous points,” CAF says, “Presentation’s belated offer was to acquire outright the marketing and media rights held by CAF, which were never for sale and the very holding of such agency rights by Presentation would be in violation of its own articles of association. As has been clearly established by the Egyptian Competition Authority in the past in one of its own public reports, the agreement between CAF and Lagardère Sports is an agency agreement not a sale agreement.
“Any suggestion whatsoever of impropriety in relation to the commercial agreement is utterly without foundation and completely and vehemently denied.”
With CAF’s new president still finding his way around the Cairo office, the requirement to deal with this situation will become a priority as CAF can ill-afford to be without the Lagardère money.
Of course, Ahmad is no stranger to dealing with tricky money issues in football. A series of e-mails published by Wikileaks shows him to have arranged for money from banned former FIFA vice president Mohammed Bin Hamman via his aide Najeeb Chirakal.
Chirakal has been banned for life by FIFA. In contrast Ahmad, perhaps not surprisingly in this new world of FIFA political manipulation, passed his eligibility test with flying colours, allowing him to win the vote for CAF presidency and a seat on the FIFA Council.
Infantino was a strong supporter of Ahmad and presented a high and visible profile on the campaign trail with Ahmad’s supporters pre-election.
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