Lagardere banks on bumper $400m beIN deal to make up bulk of CAF guarantee

By Osasu Obayiuwana

August 5 – beIN Sports, the international pay-tv broadcaster, financed by the government of Qatar, is officially the number one financial partner of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

With a 12-year deal, worth more than $400 million, running from 2017 to 2028, beIN Sports’ deal brings CAF a minimum of 40% of the $1 billion the African football governing body is guaranteed by Lagardere Sport, the France-based marketing company, who are CAF’s marketing agents.

The key financial relationship between beIN Sports and CAF informs the recent decision to stage last year’s Super Cup game between Esperance of Tunisia and Raja Casablanca of Morocco in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

It is predicted that in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar the financial and football relationship between CAF and that country’s FA will intensify.

The broadcast rights of beIN Sports have been caught in the web of the geopolitical battle between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.

Pirate station beoutQ, which transmits from Saudi Arabia, is broadcasting TV signals, in clear violation of the expensive rights that beIN bought from CAF, world football governing body FIFA, UEFA, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and several leagues across Europe.

A joint statement made by several football governing bodies, including FIFA, UEFA and the AFC (CAF was not a part of this joint statement), on July 31, called on the Saudi Arabian government and its Ministry of Culture to “take swift and decisive action against beoutQ.”

What have other CAF broadcast partners paid? 

Sub-Saharan pay-tv broadcaster SuperSport comes a distant second to beIN Sports, with an eight-year deal worth $130 million, which also runs from 2017.

The original contract between CAF and SuperSport was for $105 million, which was improved in subsequent negotiations.

Total, the French Oil Company, who are the title sponsors of the Africa Cup of Nations, come third overall, with a $116 million deal for eight years. They have an option to renew for a further four years, until 2027.

CAF’s deal with The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is the most lucrative deal with any single national broadcaster in the continent. Worth more than $17 million, it is for two AFCON tournaments.

The primary deal between the rest of Africa’s national broadcasters and CAF is done through the African Union of Broadcasters (AUB), the umbrella organisation for the continent.

“Our deal with the AUB, in my opinion, has been the best we have done with national broadcasters in the history of CAF,” CAF President Ahmad told this reporter on June 21 in Cairo.

“We got a bank guarantee from the AUB to cover their bid, so our income is very secure,” Ahmad said.  That guarantee is backed by ECOBANK, the trans-national African bank, headquartered in Togo.

According to an official CAF document, in the possession of Insideworldfootball, 26 TV rights contracts, with African national broadcasters, worth $25 million, have been signed for the 2019-2021 AFCON cycle.

A total of $23.5 million, 94% of expected revenue, has been paid into CAF’s account, according to a briefing document recently given to the organisation’s executive committee members.

The 25 countries involved are: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Cote D’Ivoire, Congo (Brazzaville), Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal (they have 2 deals), Seychelles, Togo and Tanzania.

This is a marked improvement on the Gabon 2017 AFCON situation. Of the 17 contracts, worth $18 million, signed with FTA (Free-to-Air) broadcasters two years ago, 15 contracts, to the value of $16.5 million, were paid up.

CAF’s unsolved $20m debt puzzle

There remains, however, the big question of how CAF is going to recover a near $20 million TV rights debt (the exact amount, according to official documents, is $19,204,185.66) from LC2, the multimedia production company headed by Christian Enock Lagnide, the Beninois former apprentice footballer with Metz.

A three-hour meeting between both parties, in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on May 28, which ended in deadlock, was described as “quite turbulent” in an official CAF report.

CAF exco member Augustin Senghor (who is a lawyer), Abdel Bah, their Director of TV and Marketing  and legal counsel Joelle Monlouis met with Lagnide and demanded that LC2 pay its debts to CAF, before they can enter into any subsequent business relationship.

When Insideworldfootball approached Lagnide, LC2’s CEO, he claimed that a wrong picture has been painted about his organisation.

“I do not know your motives [for asking these questions about the unpaid $20 million debt].

“But I refer you, with respect, to CAF to know the whole truth, especially if it really wants to recover the TV debt, a good part of which comes back to LC2 as well.

“I am ready for a debate… if everyone wants to know the whole truth,” said LC2’s CEO.

Internal CAF documents reveal that they are considering taking legal action against LC2 – and Lagnide personally – to recover the debt, should they fail to reach a workable recovery agreement.

Contact the writer of this story, Osasu Obayiuwana, at moc.l1597318831labto1597318831ofdlr1597318831owedi1597318831sni@t1597318831catno1597318831c1597318831