The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has terminated its 12-year, $415 million broadcasting deal with Qatari media company beIN SPORTS. This move is likely to spark legal action.

CAF signed on with beIN in 2017. The contract ran through 2028, and it covered top competitions. For example, beIN had the broadcast rights to the Africa Cup of Nations, CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup. This deal extended to 40 countries, including the United States.

In a letter dated Sep. 1, 2023, CAF notified beIN SPORTS that it was immediately canceling the deal over alleged contractual breaches. For example, CAF claims beIN owes nearly $80 million in unpaid broadcast fees. beIN disputed this claim. It states the issues arising from COVID-19-related scheduling changes to major tournaments justified withholding some payments.

In a letter to CAF officials, beIN CEO Yousef Al-Obaidly said the company “does not accept this termination” and will “take all necessary legal steps” to challenge it.

Not the first time CAF has canceled a broadcast contract

This is the second time CAF canceled a major media rights contract in recent years. In 2019, a $1 billion deal with French company Lagardere Sports was terminated. Ultimately, that cost CAF $50 million in damages.

The beIN cancellation leaves CAF without a major international broadcaster just months before the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Ivory Coast. It also casts uncertainty over coverage of CAF club competitions like the Champions League. That starts in November.

CAF and BeIN have had a long relationship

BeIN has held CAF broadcast rights since 2009 and frames itself as a longtime financial backer of African football. In his letter, Al-Obaidly said beIN has invested “hundreds of millions” in rights fees and broadcast production. The Qatari company warned that creating the new African Super League, reportedly organized with backing from FIFA, has “hugely damaging” effects by competing with existing CAF club tournaments.

For its part, CAF claims beIN violated the contract by failing to make payments. However, beIN insists it is open to talks and continuing its “long-term financial commitment to African football.”

Turbulent times at CAF

The cancellation comes at a turbulent political moment for CAF. In recent years, the confederation has come under increased oversight by FIFA, including the appointment of FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura as a ‘General Delegate for Africa’ in 2019 when the Lagardere deal was canceled. Some have suggested outside pressure, rather than prudent financial planning, is behind CAF’s decision-making around its biggest media contracts. This risks further damaging CAF’s revenues if the beIN cancellation results in another costly legal dispute.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Sebastian Frej