Blast from the past. Revisionist FIFA bans Hayatou over Lagardere deal for CAF

Issa Hayatou5

August 4 – Four years after he was voted out of office, former African football chief Issa Hayatou has been banned by FIFA for 12 months over a controversial $1 billion TV and marketing rights deal with Lagardere Sports which infringed competition regulations.

In a move that smacked of trying to highlight the wrongs of the past as a distraction from the ills of the present, FIFA sanctioned Hayatou – very much yesterday’s man – for a breach of its ethics code and also slapped a CHF30,000 fine on him.

The 74-year-old from Cameroon surprisingly lost the Confederation of African Football presidency in 2017 to the then little known Ahmad Ahmad.

Tellingly, Ahmad had the support of Gianni Infantino yet Ahmad, too, is currently serving a two-year ban that stopped him running for a second term.

Hayatou, who was also a FIFA vice-president, served as Confederation of African Football (CAF) president for 29 years and for a brief period was acting head of FIFA itself between Sepp Blatter’s suspension in October 2015 and in the crucial months of FIFA’s reform process that was put in place before the election of Infantino four months later.

The investigation into Hayatou focused on his involvement in negotiating and signing off a deal for the commercialisation of media and marketing rights of CAF-organised events with Lagardere, a French-owned media rights agency, between 2014 and 2017.

Only last January Hayatou was made CAF honorary president but FIFA’s ethics committee found he had  breached article 15 (Duty of Loyalty).

The ethics adjudicatory chamber ruled that the veteran CAF chief had entered “in the name and on behalf of the confederation, into an anti-competitive agreement with Lagardère Sport which was detrimental and caused significant damage to CAF.”

The 12-year deal was worth a reported $1 billion and gave exclusive rights to CAF competitions including the African Cup of Nations and African Champions League through 2028. It was later cancelled.

Since the cancellation of that deal CAF’s football finances have plummeted – under the oversight and interference of FIFA – to the degree that many countries were not even broadcasting national team matches, including World Cup qualifiers.

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