The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) – a regulator responsible for overseeing competition within a region – has fined the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and its media partner, BeIN, a total of US$600,000 for engaging in restrictive business practices over broadcast rights.
The Competition Commission found that a 12-year TV broadcast agreement signed by both parties in 2017 was in violation of competition regulations.
The commission, which is headquartered in Malawi, determined that the award of broadcast rights to BeIN lacked an open tender process, that the duration of the agreement was excessively long, and that it increased the likelihood of market foreclosure.
The rights contract was reportedly worth US$415 million. CAF, which is responsible for organizing major African football competitions, including the current AFCON games in Ivory Coast, and BeIN, a Qatari state-owned media group, were each fined US$300,000.
The commission ruled that all media rights awarded to BeIN pursuant to the agreement, which was due to expire in 2029, will now end in December 2024.
CAF cannot sign an exclusive broadcast-rights agreement longer than four years. According to sources familiar with the matter, both organizations plan to appeal the decision within the 60-day window.
BeIN was represented by Bowmans, while the Egyptian law firm Shahid advised CAF. Since 2017, the COMESA competition commission has initiated several investigations into the commercialization of rights pertaining to CAF football competitions, including a $1 billion intermediary rights agreement signed in 2015 with a French conglomerate, Sports Five (now Lagardère), which was later terminated.