Exclusive: Omari defends CAF cash for Umrah trip and says Lagardere door is not closed

By Osasu Obayiuwana

March 5 – Constant Omari, first Vice-President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), has told Insideworldfootball that “there is nothing wrong” in the expenditure of CAF’s funds to send several FA/Federation Presidents to the ‘Umrah’, the lesser Hadj, in Saudi Arabia.

“In Africa, we have provisions for things that come under welfare. What is wrong in this? The most important thing, in my opinion, is that the money did not go into the personal pocket of anyone,” Omari told IWF during an interview in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Tuesday.

As exclusively reported in July last year, during the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, more than $100,000 was spent by CAF, in May 2018, to send 18 football officials – including 16 African FA Presidents – for religious rites in Saudi Arabia.

See: Exclusive: Sacked finance director says Ahmad ordered CAF to pay for Umrah pilgrimage

When this reporter told Omari that such expenditure was a clear breach of FIFA’s Code of Ethics and financial guidelines, forbidding the use of football funds for the personal benefit of officials, the FIFA Council member refused to accept this argument.

“We are in Africa and we have our own culture and traditions. We cannot be acting as if we are in Europe, where they have their own culture, their own way of doing things, which is very different from us. I think this has to be respected.”

Omari is currently in Paris, where he is meeting with officials of Lagardere Sports, in order to find a resolution to the dispute that followed CAF’s decision to unilaterally terminate its 12-year $1 billion marketing contract with the French company.

Although both parties are currently locked in arbitral proceedings, at the International Chamber of Commerce in Geneva, Omari surprisingly told Insideworldfootball that a resumption of the business relationship between the two organisations is a serious possibility.

“Nothing is off the table… We have three issues with Lagardere – the level of commission (15%), which is too much; the length of the contract and the right of 1st refusal.”

“If we can come to a compromise on these issues, and there is no better offer elsewhere, why should we not continue with them?” Omari said.

An exclusive interview with the CAF first Vice-President, covering a range of burning issues in African football, will be published on these pages next week. 

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