Saudi Arabia is in talks with the Confederation of African Football over a $200m (£160m) deal to sponsor the new African Super League, in an agreement that could help to secure the continent’s support for any future World Cup bid, the Guardian understands.
Caf had been due to launch the 24-team tournament that has been heavily supported by the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, in August as part of plans to raise the global profile of African clubs and generate increased revenue. The Super League, first mooted by Infantino in 2018 and announced by Caf’s president, Patrice Motsepe, in October, is planned to have prize fund of $100m that includes $11.6m for the winner – almost $8m more than currently on offer for the winners of the African Champions League – and a solidarity fund bringing each of the 54 Caf member associations $1m a year towards football development.
However, it is understood its start will be delayed until the 2024-25 season when the sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia is expected to begin and that a slimmed-down version featuring only eight teams will run from 17 October to 30 November next season. Talks with Saudi Arabia are believed to have been taking place for some time and last week Caf announced it had signed a five-year cooperation and development agreement with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation – a move it said would “foster growth opportunities for African and Saudi Arabian football”.
They have signed a memorandum of understanding that will focus on initiatives around technical and football development at club and national-team level and in grassroots football, women’s football, talent identification, competitions, friendly matches and commercial opportunities.
“Caf is excited to work together and partner with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to develop and grow football on our continent and globally,” said Motsepe in a statement. “There are also specific areas for mutually beneficial partnerships that we are discussing and announcements will be made in due course.”
It is understood that Caf has been struggling financially since a $1bn television and marketing rights deal with the French company Lagardère Sports was cancelled in 2019. Caf did not comment on a potential Saudi sponsorship of the Super League.
Saudi Arabia has been strongly rumoured to be considering an unprecedented three-continent project to host the 2030 World Cup despite Fifa’s rules preventing Asian Football Confederation nations from hosting a men’s World Cup until 2034 after the selection of Qatar for the 2022 tournament. A mooted partnership with Greece and Egypt appears unlikely after the Egyptian sports minister said last month his country was not planning to submit a bid before June’s deadline and it is understood Saudi Arabia now sees the 2034 edition as a more feasible option for what would be another winter World Cup given the extreme summer temperatures there.
It will host the Club World Cup in December and then the Asia Cup for the first time in January 2027. Infantino is known to have a good relationship with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, after they sat in the same executive box for the Anthony Joshua v Oleksandr Usyk heavyweight boxing rematch in Jeddah in August.
“There is a huge will to invest in a project like this, which will give a new visibility to African football,” Infantino said of the new African Super League in October. “The growth of African club and national-team football contributes to the growth of world football. The competition will benefit each and every country, not just with the solidarity payment, but the exposure for African football.”
Source: The Guardian