By Muambo Edward
Football Writer, Cameroon
Representatives from thirteen of the top ranking African club presidents and representatives met with the leadership of CAF and FIFA to look at the challenges and opportunities affecting the development and the future inter-club competitions on the continent.
The main areas of discussion were:
• How to generate revenue which could be reinvested in football and football infrastructures which are key to the development of football at club level.
• The transfer of players, solidarity payments and training compensation as well as the safety and security of players and fans.
• The importance of digital communications to respond to the needs of the young fans.
• The financial difficulties and the logistical constraints faced by most African clubs.
• They also discussed the international calendar and the need to reflect a fair balance between the clubs that have the players on their payrolls and the need for them to represent their national teams, given their interconnection.
They all arrived at a consensus that African club football needs to be radically transformed into a more appealing product. In concrete terms, this means restructuring club competitions with the view to significantly increase the number of African clubs playing at top level.
The proposed reforms are aimed at bringing African football to a more global audience.
Speaking at during the meeting, CAF President Ahmad Ahmad said: “We all love football and we love our continent. Together we have the possibility to create a bright future for African football and in order to do this we are here to first listen to you and then to work together to elevate African football to the next level.”
In his address, FIFA President Gianni Infantino reemphasized the need to take the African football brand to another level.
”In the last two weeks 28 countries, more than half of Africa, have competed in qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2022. We were excited to broadcast these games live for the first time ever to the world via FIFA.com. A global audience of more than 10 million football fans tuned in to see the unique spirit and feeling of African football in action and we want to do even more to take African football global! The potential of African football is immeasurable and if we work hand in hand, everyone around this table playing their part, we can do great things for the development of the game we all love so dearly,” Infantino said.
In a nutshell, the one day meeting brought out the challenges African football faces and the huge potential it has to reach millions fans around the continent.
A second meeting intended at presenting a plan with concrete steps to be taken to overcome the challenges pinpointed by the carefully selected participants is scheduled to take place shortly.
The African football brand has a critical need of better positioning, which will attract sponsors and top broadcasters, and better the financial strengths of the teams, make it more competitive with better remunerated players in more professional setups.
A peculiarity and an African reality which the delegates might have overlooked is the fact that there is a critical need for the governments to accompany the football movement in most African countries for a period of at least five years, with sponsorship, not to the clubs but rather providing huge Prize Money gains at the end of domestic football competitions.
This will increase the level of competitiveness and clubs will assemble the required resources to fight for the Prize Money.
Domestic league organizers should work with local media organs and put together solid management and marketing teams that can successfully position their brands and attract sponsors both for the clubs and the general league to permit them become financially autonomous, as the governments gradually withdraw their sponsorship.
Different countries have different needs based on their level of development. If the domestic Championships are not properly organized, all efforts at the top might not yield the expected results.
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