African club presidents are set to meet twice more in the next four months as discussions about the launch of a Super League on the continent intensify.
Some 30 presidents, representing clubs from record African champions Al Ahly of Egypt to Zimbabwe’s Dynamos, met in Douala, Cameroon, on Saturday to learn about the project.
Many African FA presidents also attended, as did Gianni Infantino, president of world governing body Fifa.
“We will implement in partnership with Fifa,” said Confederation of African Football president Patrice Motsepe.
“Fifa brings a wealth of experience in terms of running the best competition in the world, [the World Cup].”
“We want the African Super League to be world-class and to compete against the best in the world in terms of quality of football, resources, infrastructure, pitches, referees, stadiums and ticketing. A lot of good progress has been made.”
Plans are still embryonic and far from confirmed, but initial proposals – presented by Caf following guidance from Fifa – suggest 24 teams will contest three groups of eight teams ahead of a knockout stage starting with the Round of 16.
These teams will be taken from the best-ranked African clubs over the past few years, with groups to be played on a regional basis (North, Central/West, South/East).
“It was an innovative and ground-breaking session that I think will change the landscape of African football,” said Barbara Gonzalez, chief executive of Tanzanian side Simba.
“I see something new being launched, and hopefully we will see a more improved concept that addresses concerns and financial questions that we raised to the presidents of Caf and Fifa.”
“It’s quite an exciting project – Caf believes it’s a revolutionary project,” said Al Ahly’s chief executive Amr Shaheen. “There are a lot of aspects around it that we need time to understand and digest.”
New competition ‘not a breakaway league’
There are outside hopes the league will kick off in September this year, although September 2023 has been suggested as a more realistic date.
In a bid to develop African football, Motsepe says that clubs wishing to compete will need to have both a youth academy as well as a woman’s side.
Clubs will not have to leave their own domestic leagues to participate, while the possibility remains that the African Champions League will continue, as will the the Caf Confederation Cup.
“It’s a completely different proposition – it is not at all a breakaway league,” said Infantino.
“It is an African Super League integrated in the institutional structures of African and global football. The second big difference is that this is an open competition, allowing for teams to be promoted and also to be relegated if they don’t perform.
“The African Super League is definitely an exciting project as far as Fifa is concerned. It’s a unique project for global and African football and for this reason, I’m very happy to be here to assist and share a little bit of the experience we’ve accumulated.”
Two years ago Infantino claimed the creation of an African Super League could generate an estimated $200m in revenue.
Both club and FA presidents – in separate meetings – were presented with plans that had been revised after feedback from previous talks regarding the idea, which is being constantly refined.
“It’s a project that will allow a lot of players from Africa to continue playing their football within Africa, without looking at Europe and other continents as areas to improve their welfare,” Zambia FA president Andrew Kamanga, a Caf executive committee member, told BBC Sport Africa.
Questions regarding funding
One major issue is where the funding for the league will come from, especially with travel across Africa so expensive for so many.
A billionaire worth around three billion dollars, South African Motsepe is using his business contacts to draw in some major sponsors – with one idea being to seek the sponsorship of airlines in a bid to cut costs.
“You need the private sector, the sponsors, and they have to make commercial decisions,” Motsepe told reporters in Cameroon, which will host the Africa Cup of Nations final on Sunday between Senegal and Egypt.
“Gianni and I have had really exciting discussions with some of the biggest TV companies in the world.”
“We want the chairmen of clubs in Africa to be part of this consultation process, to give us input and advice because it’s going to require a restructuring of fixtures and leagues.
“You can’t, in Africa, have initiatives of this magnitude that do not involve everybody, so every nation in Africa is part of this process.
“What I like is that it will allow Caf to get some money to develop African football and make it world-class, but also to use some of the money to share amongst all of the 54 nations in Africa – from the smallest one to the largest one.”