Lagardere’s CAF contract under threat as FIFA-led admin makes new commercial play

Exclusive by Osasu Obayiuwana

September 30 – The 12-year billion-dollar contract between Lagardere Sport (LS) and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is at risk of being a casualty of the ongoing CAF governance reforms being spearheaded by FIFA.

Officials of Lagardere, led by Ugo Valensi, their CEO, and Idriss Akki, who runs the African football division of LS, met in Milan, Italy, with officials and legal experts of CAF and FIFA, including Mouad Hadji, CAF’s General Secretary and Mario Galavotti, FIFA’s Director for the Independent Bodies.

The meeting took place September 24, on the fringes of the ‘FIFA Best’ awards.

Sources aware of the discussions at the Milan meeting told Insideworldfootball that the existing relationship between LS and CAF, which runs from 2017 until 2028, was a major talking point.

“Mr Akki is a very nervous man at the moment,” a source, which is close to affairs at Lagardere, said.

“Since FIFA took control of CAF, the signals coming out from Cairo to the company is that a possibility of a contract review or cancellation is being examined. The situation within Lagardere is very difficult right now.”

Current discussions reflect the views that officials at the very top of CAF expressed to this reporter, at the last Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

With roughly $257 million raised from commercial partners (excluding the more lucrative broadcast rights deals) for CAF, by Lagardere, since 2017, their officials question whether it is in the organisation’s best interest to continue the contract with Lagardere.

See Unravelling CAF’s money myths

The 8-year $4 billion deal that the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) recently signed in June 2019 – but runs from 2021 to 2028 – with Chinese company DDMC and the Fortis Sports Company, puts CAF’s 2015 deal under a bright spotlight.

But the legal conditions for the termination of the ongoing contract are pretty onerous, as this reporter, who has a copy of the original long-form Lagardere contract with CAF, can testify to.

Lagardere’s lawyers ensured that the legal base of any possible dispute with CAF, is the International Chamber of Commerce in Geneva, Switzerland, with relevant Swiss laws being the operative statutes for the 12-year contract.

It is suspected, within Lagardere, that the Infront Company, which is owned by the Chinese firm Dalian Wanda, is being primed to play a role in the commercial affairs of CAF.

But Insideworldfootball is yet to get any evidence to substantiate this claim.

Under the new FIFA/CAF administration, federations have already pledged their broadcast rights for the 2022 and 2026 World Cup Qualification series to FIFA’s sales arm, rights that were previously exploited by the national federations.

Contact the writer of this story, Osasu Obayiuwana, at moc.l1701555151labto1701555151ofdlr1701555151owedi1701555151sni@o1701555151fni1701555151