By Paul Nicholson
August 13 – She has only been in the job two weeks but already Fatma Samoura, FIFA Secretary-General and General Delegate for Africa, has landed herself in a governance and conflict of interest crisis over the move to consolidate all African national federation World Cup broadcast rights under a FIFA sales arm.
Previously national federations have sold their own World Cup qualification rights in-house or engaged their own representatives both for national and international TV sales, as well as for sponsorship. All revenue generated went directly to the federation.
Now Confederation of African Football (CAF) member associations have been given just a week to sign over their broadcast rights for the CAF 2022 and 2026 World Cup qualifiers by signing off on a mandate that gives scant detail on sales or any guarantee of revenue. All revenue will then be distributed from a centralised pool. How the revenue will be apportioned will ultimately be decided “according to a formula agreed by the FIFA administration”.
The news of FIFA proposal (see: Exclusive: FIFA swoops on African FAs’ World Cup rights with 8-day ultimatum) has been met with surprise and criticism worldwide, and dismay within many Africa federations who feel they have little choice but to comply.
One high ranking UEFA executive, who asked not to be named, commented on WhatsApp: “I can’t believe it!!! Letter signed by Fatma Samoura as FIFA GS, who is at the same time Delegate for Africa…this is a blatant example of the potential conflict of interest that (the) President (Aleksander Ceferin) raised in his letter weeks ago … CAF is dead.
“54 members of FIFA and … (incidentally) … CAF”. If this is not colonisation, the Spaniards were pilgrims in South America.”
The letter referred to was a response to FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s June request for confederation bosses to support the FIFA takeover of CAF. UEFA’s Ceferin was unequivocal in his letter questioning the legality and governance issues surrounding the suggestion. His words now look somewhat prophetic
Of the CAF proposal he said: “… the solution proposed raises a large number of questions and in particular the likelihood of conflicts of interest. How would it be possible not to raise this issue, knowing that the General Delegate for Africa would remain FIFA Secretary General and would act “under the authority of both CAF and FIFA” as stated in your letter. That raises questions about the decision-making procedures and the guardrails that would need to be put in place to avoid any conflicts. lt is therefore indispensable, before any decision can be taken, to have a better understanding of the mechanisms envisaged both at FIFA and at the CAF, with an accurate description of the role and powers of the FIFA General Delegate for Africa, an accurate description of the way FIFA would function in her absence, etc. At this stage, I am not in possession of enough information or assurances on this subject to be able to approve the proposal.”
One lawyer closely familiar with FIFA’s internal workings and who asked not to be named, raised further concerns over the decision making processes and conflicts of interest, telling Insideworldfootball: “Central marketing is not necessarily a bad thing but in this case there are so many wider issues you have to wonder what is really going through their minds to do this. Fatma is at CAF and on the same day is writing on FIFA headed paper to ask them to sign the attached mandate to hand their rights over.”
A quickfire poll of African FA presidents indicates that many feel they have no option to concede to FIFA’s request and sign the mandate, despite the lack of transparency in regards to what will happen once they sign rights over.
A commercial rights representative who was very closely involved in UEFA’s consolidation of its own national team rights sales pointed out: “This deal bears no resemblance to the long and painful process that we went through at UEFA with our federations when we consolidated national team rights sales. It is a commercial win win for FIFA but it really doesn’t look like a very good deal for CAF. If they (CAF federations) felt this (consolidation of rights sales) was what they wanted to do with their rights then where is the tender process to find the right sales partner, the feasibility study, the different options for sales strategies.
“It is a territory grab. Just on the basic commercials, FIFA will deduct costs and will have servicing costs. FIFA will decide those costs, not CAF. And CAF and its member association will not have any say on the matter, and very little say on how much they share from the pool which is still to be determined. How can they sign off on that in good faith? They will be relegated to standing at their door with their begging bowls asking for a share of the money that they used to control themselves. And when they get it they will very likely have to pay dearly for it in other political ways. I guess this is the new FIFA we are all getting used to.”
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