Exclusive: Ahmad refuses Lagardere request to address CAF Exco on $1bn deal termination

By Osasu Obayiuwana

November 20 – The president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Ahmad, has rejected a request from Lagardere Sports (LS) to address its Executive Committee on November 21 in Cairo, regarding CAF’s decision to terminate its billion-dollar contract with the Paris-based company. 

“Following today’s telephone conversation with the CAF Secretary General, Mr. Mouad Hajji, we take note of your refusal to allow Lagardère Sports’ representatives to be heard by the CAF Executive Committee at its next meeting of 21 November 2019, as kindly requested in our letter of 15 November… to which you have not seen fit to respond,” said Ugo Valensi, LS CEO and Idriss Akki, the President of LS Africa, in a jointly signed letter dated November 19, which Insideworldfootball has seen.

“We very much regret this decision. Indeed, we continue to consider that such a hearing before the CAF Executive Committee would be the forum for a constructive and unfiltered dialogue and, as indicated in our letter mentioned above, would make sure that the CAF Executive Committee’s members have complete and clear information before making a conscious decision about the future of CAF’s relationship with Lagardère Sports, within the framework of the position to be taken by the Executive Committee on the disputed decision of CAF’s Emergency Committee to terminate our contract dated 28 September 2016,” they said.

In their earlier letter of November 15, LS made their case against the termination of the 12-year contract.

The letters of Lagardere Sport of 19 November and I5 November, with the accompanying minutes of the meetings held in Rabat on November 1st and 2nd, 2018, as well as for the additional meetings held on November 15th and 16th, 2018, are published here. Click on the link below.

191119 Letter LS to CAF

“It is… with some sadness and frustration that we have experienced in recent weeks, with CAF unilaterally challenging our agreement, it being reminded that its detailed version was signed by the two parties just over three years ago,” LS began in this letter.

“We already explained, on several occasions, the reasons why the unilateral decision of CAF to terminate our agreement should be consider as groundless, unlawful and abusive.

“Without going into specifics, it is sufficient to recall in this respect that the grounds on which CAF has indicated it based its decision would be, on the one hand, the decision of the Egyptian Competition Authority, which goes back almost three years, against which CAF had refused to appeal and which concerns only the Egyptian territory and, on the other hand, internal recommendations of the COMESA Competition Commission as set out in a simple preliminary report and which, in any case, do not require the short-term challenge to our agreement as apparently decided by CAF,” the November 15 letter went on.

“In addition to the fact that they do not comply with the terms of the agreement, these alleged grounds are less than persuasive insofar as, please be kindly reminded, Lagardère Sports had shown goodwill by starting in October 2017 discussions with CAF in the prospect of agreeing on arrangements that are satisfactory to both parties and likely to respond to the criticisms raised by these competition authorities against CAF.”

With Ahmad bluntly refusing to have any conversation with LS, arbitral proceedings – guided by Swiss law – at the International Chamber of Commerce in Geneva, Switzerland, (which CAF and LS agreed as the forum and governing law for the settlement of any legal disputes) are inevitable, unless CAF is able to offer a financial settlement acceptable to the French company.

As the unilateral termination of the CAF-LS deal was only done by the emergency committee of the African football governing body and not by the full 23-man executive committee, it requires the latter’s approval, by a majority vote, for it to be final.

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