African Football League start-up at last lands a sponsor in Visit Saudi

October 12 – Visit Saudi has signed up as the main sponsor for the inaugural CAF/FIFA African Football League (AFL) initiative that has struggled to find support within Africa and commercially.

Although initially a one-season deal only for the AFL (sceptics are predicting the league will be a one-season-only wonder), CAF said it could be extended for future editions.

“Visit Saudi express their shared enthusiasm for this Partnership and affirm their openness to extending this collaboration for future editions of the AFL. Both parties are committed to the success of this Partnership and the positive impact it will have for the development and global competitiveness of African football and Saudi tourism,” said a CAF announcement.

The AFL has been slimmed down from an original African Super League plan and will see just eight clubs compete in 14 matches.

CAF president Patrice Motsepe, on the behest of FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, had promoted the competition as a game changer for the continent.

In the end, just eight clubs will compete, instead of 24. They are Egypt’s Al Ahly, Tunisia’s Espérance and Morocco’s Wydad, Nigeria’s Enyimba DRCongo’s TP Mazembe, South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns, Angola’s Atlético Petróleos de Luanda and Tanzania’s Simba, the host club with the tournament taking place from October 20 to November 5.

Last year, at the CAF general assembly in Tanzania, Motsepe projected the competition in a 24-team format would generate $200 million per year with $100 million going into prize money to the participating clubs as well as the other member associations.

CAF said: “The Partnership between CAF and Visit Saudi holds enormous potential for the African Football League (“AFL”) which has the highest prize money and is the most competitive club football competition on the African Continent.

“The success of the AFL will contribute to the building of Youth academies for boys and girls and football infrastructure in the 54 countries that are represented by CAF’s Member Associations.”

Visit Saudi had initially put itself forward as a sponsor of the Women’s World Cup but withdrew after a global backlash from within the game over the mixed message that the sponsorship could send regarding women’s rights at the world’s biggest women’s sports tournament.

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