By Osasu Obayiuwana
January 17 – A leading figure at Lagardere Sport, the French sports marketing company, has told Insideworldfootball that his company is seeking up to $90 million in compensation from the Confederation of African Football (CAF), for breaking their 12-year marketing contract.
“We had nine years left on our contract, before CAF decided to unilaterally terminate it. As the Chief Executive of our parent company told the French financial media, we were to earn an estimated $10m per year from the contract.”
“So, at $10 million per year, with nine years left, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how much we are seeking in compensation from CAF,” the high-level Lagardere source said.
“Officials in CAF know that a legal dispute is going to be drawn out and expensive. They have told us that they would like a settlement. This has been discussed outside of the arbitration proceedings and we have to see if it is possible to reach an agreement,” the source said.
“Meanwhile, the arbitration is going on in Geneva, which is the venue, as stated in our contract with CAF.”
Since CAF wrote to Lagardere on October 28 last year, unilaterally terminating the deal, CAF is yet to announce a deal with a new marketing partner, even thought Infront, with the backing of its Chinese owners, Dalian Wanda, has been touted as the favourite.
“CAF and FIFA – which pushed CAF into terminating the contract with us – are now finding out that the job that we did is not so easy,” said the source.
“The money we raised cannot be bettered by someone else. The market is out there. Let them better the deals that we made for CAF.”
“Since SuperSport terminated their contract with CAF, FIFA officials have been asking us how we managed to get the $130 million deal that we did, because there is no way that CAF will get such a deal now,” the Lagardere source went on.
“The African football marketing environment is a very different animal. People think that they can use the way that they operate in Europe to work in Africa. They will be in for a very rude shock.”
“Look at the situation with the next AFCON in Cameroon. CAF is moving the tournament by six months, from June/July back to January/February. How does a marketer explain that to sponsors, that have already made plans? Which major international company would tolerate this?”
“Cameroon also prepare with a reduced time schedule. How can endless changes of time and venues, as had happened with so many AFCONs recently, help the commercial development of African football?”
“Sponsors will not take African football seriously in these conditions. Those responsible for governing African football should live up to their responsibilities and not blame others for their incompetence,” the furious Lagardere source said.
Its parent company, the Lagardère group, recently sold 75% of the Lagardère Sports agency to H.I.G. Capital, the Miami-based private equity and asset management firm, for just over $110 million.
The sale is to be finalised before the end of the first quarter of this year.
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