THE Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) continues to press forward with allegations against Confederation of African Football President Issa Hayatou and General Secretary Hicham El Amrani with claims of failing to open up the tender for the media rights of the main regional football competitions in Africa for the next 12 years up to 2028 – a deal reported to be worth $1 billion.
Hayatou and Al Amrani are facing a criminal trial referred by the Egyptian Prosecutor’s Office last March 7 for engaging in anti-competitive practices, following criminal charges pressed by ECA. Court hearings started last March 13.
The charges are bolstered by allegations of unethical conduct, made by Presentation Sports – An Egyptian company engaged in broadcasting sport events, particularly football games – against CAF for renewing their exclusive contract with French firm Lagardère Sports which expired in 2016, without conducting an open and transparent bid procedure with other prospective organizations.
Cited as an abuse of dominant position by Presentation Sports, CAF sold the media rights to Lagardère Sports awarding them exclusive marketing and media rights for two consecutive terms up to 2028, with a priority right for further extension of exclusivity until the year 2036 – an act which can subject viewers to unjustified costs when watching CAF’s football competitions, and prevent potential competitors from entering designated markets.
Presentation Sports is currently awaiting a verdict following their appeal to the FIFA Ethics Committee and the FIFA Review Committee to exclude Hayatou and El Amrani from the list of candidates for re-election for the CAF Executive Committee scheduled to take place tomorrow, March 16.
‘We are deeply disappointed to be denied the opportunity of a fair and transparent bid for CAF’s media rights, despite repeated requests and calls made by the Egyptian Competition Authority. We assign great value to the demands of our loyal viewers across Egypt and Africa, and will continue to appeal for the right to provide them with the best service, options and opportunity,” said Yasser Fathy, the Legal Advisor to Presentation Sports said.
“With a new president at the head of FIFA, the organization has been undergoing a huge reform, with good governance policies and transparency being a priority. The winds are changing and with the elections for CAF Presidency this week, perhaps it is time that CAF FAs also be proactive in their decision of leadership and not wait until they reach a breaking point like FIFA almost did”, he added.
Ramifications of the absence of transparent tender procedures can result in lesser revenues for CAF’s members, which could potentially have a negative effect on the development of football in the African continent, and severely restricts competition. This is a threat to media plurality in Egypt and Africa, according to the ECA. Furthermore, long-term exclusivity is considered an anti-competitive practice, and opposes the ECA’s efforts to follow international best practices to defend Egypt markets against monopolies.
The agreements between CAF and Lagardère Sports are also currently under investigation by the Competition Commission for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) which has deemed the agreements between the two parties of a nature that restraints competition in the Common Market. If found guilty, COMESA has the power to impose fines of up to 10 percent of the annual turnover of the undertakings and associations in question – a move that has serious implications on CAF and associated members
Hayatou has been subject to previous ethical reviews and accusations during his time as a member of the International Olympic Committee. Investigations uncovered that Hayatou (along with former FIFA president and IOC member Joao Havelange and IAAF President Lamine Diack) were on an International Sport and Leisure (ISL) list that paid 100 Million USD in kickbacks to various parties between 1989 and 1999. It was later confirmed through the IOC Ethics Commission that Hayatou had received a monetary payment, but as he was not an IOC member at the time his sanction by the IOC was minimal.
This stemmed from a scandal regarding marketing rights which took place in November 2010 when BBC’s current affairs program Panorama and journalist Andrew Jennings alleged that Hayatou had taken bribes in the 1990s in association with the awarding of World Cup television rights. Panorama claimed to have obtained a document from FIFA’s former ISL marketing agency. The document claimed that Hayatou was paid FF100,000 ($24,500) by ISL to win the contract to distribute the television rights.
Moreover, the French Police are currently investigating the International Athletics Association (IAAF)’s former President Lamine Diack and his son Papa Massata Diack. According to the Guardian – Papa Diack was involved in bribing IOC members in the vote for the 2016 and (potentially) 2020 Olympic Games. The latest IOC member being investigated in this scandal was Frankie Fredericks, however the French Police are still looking into 5 other IOC members. With Hayatou’s background and ties to the Diacks, some are saying Hayatou could be tied to this investigation. — SG