Bility says railroaded FIFA TV deals for African rights could damage FA funding

By Paul Nicholson

August 14 –  Musa Bility, the CAF executive committee member who has been banned by FIFA, has criticised the mandate issued by FIFA for the collection of African FA World Cup qualification TV rights to be controlled and sold directly by FIFA.

In a statement, Bility reminds the African federations and his Confederation of African Football (CAF) colleagues of the funding relationships between FAs and their governments, and the importance of the TV rights for many governments for their national broadcasters.

He warns under the new sales arrangements those key relationships could come under threat and while they might generate more TV income for the centralised pool, they could impact negatively on the relationships FAs have with their governments, local funding and local sponsorships.

The very likely result could be that the African FA’s may end up with slightly more income from the TV pool (FIFA in their mandate are only saying that for 2022 they will match what was achieved for 2018), but overall could find themselves significantly underfunded with government grants and sponsorships lost as rights switch to higher paying private or pan-regional broadcasters.

Bility says that this is not a new debate with CAF and points to an decision in September 2018 that “unanimously agreed” not to centralise the sale of broadcast rights for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Less than a year later CAF federations are being expected to sign off on the FIFA proposal (for 2022 and 2026 rights) put to them by FIFA’s general secretary and delegate for Africa Fatma Samoura.

“Every year, the National Governments of each of the 54 African FAs spend millions of dollars in direct support to the National teams of these countries to participate in these CAF and FIFA events,” Bility says.

“At the very least, their default expectations are that those qualifiers for which they have spent precious taxpayer money, may be made available to the National broadcasters of their respective countries and its citizens, at little or no cost,” he continued.

“Unfortunately, Government or taxpayer interests are NEVER represented whenever CAF, FIFA and African FAs arrogate themselves the role of dishing out the commercial and broadcast interests of those same football matches.”

See full Bility statement: STATEMENT BY MUSA HASSAN BILITY ON THE POOLING OF BROADCAST

Bility also criticised the one-week timeline in which the African FA’s are being expected to sign off on the mandate, saying it “leaves individual FAs with insufficient time to consult” on the issues. He also says that the proposal should have been brought before the CAF exco, which it wasn’t.

Bility was given a ten-year ban and CHF 500,000 fine by FIFA’s Ethics Committee. A decision that was made by FIFA in February but not passed on until June, just days after Bility had refused to change his criticism of, to support for, FIFA’s installation of Samoura as general delegate for Africa.

Bility has challenged the legality if the FIFA-CAF takeover at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). “ I have challenged the entire “CAF – FIFA cooperation” on the basis of illegality, which therefore implies that any decisions taken by or contracts signed with the illegitimate General-Delegate, will be a nullity ab initio,” he said.

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