As the build up to the African Cup of Nations, matters at the continent’s football regulatory body are at their most messy. Through this explainer, we’ll provide a breakdown of the state of issues and the proposed solutions.
Current President, Ahmad Ahmad (Madagascar) is currently the subject of allegations ranging from financial mismanagement to sexual harassment. Ahmad, who denies the allegations chalking it up to the work of perceived detractors was arrested in Paris earlier this month by French police described as “part of a probe into corruption, breach of trust and forgery”.
Ahmad fired CAF’s secretary general, Amr Fahmy, in April that following the leak of internal documents which suggested financial mismanagement on a major scale.
On the field, the second leg of the two-match CAF Champions League final was abandoned with 30 minutes to play due to failure with the VAR system. The CAF executive committee ruling that the game be replayed brought further embarrassment and outrage.
As a result of this and its overall displeasure with the news, world regulatory body, FIFA is seeking to take control of CAF and review its operations.
What’s FIFA’s interest?
The reign of the bald Swiss, Sepp Blatter was symbolic for encapsulating the corruption and excesses of football’s regulators. Blatter’s reign was brought to an end in 2015 via a suspension over unaccounted payments to Michel Platini, then UEFA President. FIFA’s ethics committee would go on to ban Blatter from working in football for 6 years. This combined with the fall out of the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup, the allegations of vote buying and the U.S Justice Department’s prosecution of key figures in the game for alleged fraud and corruption in North and South America. 14 people were indicted in connection with an investigation by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) into wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. This led to the fall of CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb, two sitting FIFA Executive Committee members: Eduardo Li and Eugenio Figueredo and former CONMEBOL President Nicolás Leoz.
On a Nigerian front, 2010 saw the ban of Amos Adamu from FIFA for bribery. It is against this backdrop and pressures from commercial partners that current FIFA President, Gianni Infantino emerged. Infantino has made a show of cleaning up the havoc wreaked under Blatter but has essentially added another layer of opacity in FIFA’s dealings. FIFA asserting itself in the CAF issue is a bid to get ahead of the issue to prevent any possible further embarrassment.
What is FIFA proposing?
An internal document seen by the New York Times suggests that FIFA will be sending its Secretary General and its chief operational administrator, the Senegalese Fatma Samoura to take control of CAF. She will hold the title: FIFA High Commissioner for Africa when she assumes the new post later this summer (August 1st). Her job description: “The rule of the temporary FIFA High Commissioner for Africa would be to conduct a root-and-branch review of governance of the confederation, oversee operational management of the organization, and recommend where needed a series of reform efforts, to be agreed with CAF member associations and with FIFA in order to put CAF itself on a modern and sound footing, improve its image and reputation and thus ensure that CAF is better equipped to face future challenges and to grasp future opportunities.”
Depends on how you look at it. Statutorily, FIFA is only allowed to take control of member associations. i.e the domestic football associations of any of its member nations. As a work around, CAF’s executive board had to agree to the change after possibly having its hand forced by FIFA suspending its financing.
However, it’s posited that Infantino views the 2015 scandal as a precedent for what could happen when continental bodies are allowed to run amok. Hence, he’s seeking to take control of CAF to forestall any degeneration.
What will happen to Ahmed now?
He will retain the title of President but his day-to-day role will be limited as Samoura comes into office for the next 6 months.