CAF win Round 1 of contract dispute but Lagardère still punching for a knockout finish

By Paul Nicholson

December 16 – CAF has won the first round of the legal battle over the cancellation of its contract with Lagardère Sports. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Geneva ruled Friday rejected Lagardère’s application for emergency measures that would have allowed the agency to continue as per the contract.

CAF “welcomed the decision” saying “Lagardère Sports alleged that CAF had unlawfully terminated this contract and asked, among other things, that CAF be required to immediately reinstate the contract.

“In the decision, notified on 13th December 2019, the Emergency Arbitrator considered the reasons why CAF terminated the agreement, and rejected all the requests of Lagardere Sports.”

In its own statement, issued Sunday, Lagardère pointed out that the ICC arbitrator had not ruled on the case but only the request for emergency measures, and that it would continue to seek compensation.

“While the emergency arbitrator rejected these interim measures, he did not rule on the merits of the case as this was not within his remits. Consequently, the outcome of the emergency proceedings does not in any way predetermine the outcome of any future arbitration on the merits of the case, “ said the Lagardère statement.

“Under these conditions, Lagardère will steadfastly continue as planned to proceed with the broader, more encompassing arbitration (arbitration on merits) to obtain compensation from CAF.”

In their press release CAF said that it had the support of FIFA in the case and that it was standing up both for the “rights of football fans who want to be able to watch African football in their respective countries”, as well as “safeguard(ing) the rights of genuine commercial partners who want to see a healthy, competitive and transparent football business environment in Africa.”

This is doubtless what Lagardère would argue that this is exactly not what CAF and FIFA are doing with the annulment of the contract that has subsequently seen major broadcasters reassess their deals (and in SuperSport’s case pull their coverage) for CAF competitions, and hence damaging the marketing value of CAF rights.

Lagardère in its statement said it “deems the actions of CAF to be unwarranted and will take all action at its disposal to defend its interests, mitigate the impact of any immediate harm to its business and protect the interests of its shareholders.”

The marketing agency pointed out its long standing relationship with African football saying it “has served CAF for many years with efficiency, loyalty and dedication, working collaboratively to grow African football and bringing the games to thousands of new fans each year.” It maintains that its track record is proof that the actions of CAF (supported by FIFA) were not justifiable cause to cancel the contract.

This dispute still has a distance to run but the first round loss has cost Lagardère €60,000 towards CAF’s legal costs. That amount will likely be insignificant if the ICC eventually rules in favour of Lagardère’s compensation claim for the cancellation of its $1 billion contract.

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