Tuesday, July 28, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Orange taking over from MTN at Caf. What's the deal?

A new deal will see telecommunications company Orange sponsor all major competitions organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) over the next eight years.

The deal was brokered by the Sportfive agency. Caf's website says:

"In addition, Orange becomes new media broadcaster of these competitions through mobile offers across 55 countries in Africa."

Orange will title sponsor Caf’s flagship competition the Africa Cup of Nations, will receive television and mobile rights in France for CAF competitions, and will broadcast CAF events on mobile in 55 African countries.

The new partnership begins with the 2009 CAF Champions League, which begins this month.

The competitions covered by the agreement are: the Africa Cup of Nations (held every two years), the African Nations Championship (held every two years), the African Youth Championship (held every two years), the CAF Champions League (annual), the Confederation Cup (annual), and the CAF Super Cup (every year).


A senior colleague of mine (who definitely does not want to be mentioned) tells me that this move by Caf is hardly surprising:

"MTN are not keen on caf anymore because the corruption at Caf is huge.

They [Caf] wanted to give all the rights for the various tournaments to Glo because Mike Adenuga Jr [CEO of Glo] is a personal friend of Hayatou's.

But that deal backfired because Glo couldn't pay [the amounts involved]"

After that deal reportedly backfired, Caf went back to MTN for help. Talk about asses.

And of course MTN felt slighted and said no.


As it is many analysts are suspicious of the deal, one of whom is my senior colleague (who still doesn't wanna be named):

"I'm suspicious because of Orange's presence in Africa. They are in only 5 or 6 countries here: Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Senegal, Guinea and Botswana."

The money aspect of the deal is not yet known but if you recall, last year CAF put a value of 100 million euros ($143 million) for a comprehensive and long-term package of its competitions when it opened tenders for a new sponsor.


This deal is definitely a big deal for Orange because the African Nations' Cup is now a very attractive and big commodity. With the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup is expected to have a world-wide TV audience in viewership of 26 billion, MTN would have hoped that some of that huge number would have watched them put on the dress rehearsal that Angola 2010 would have been.

According to CAN sponsor Canon, the potential accumulated global TV audience for the 2008 tournament was close to 4 billion.

Last year, 143 of the 368 players at CAN were drawn from elite European clubs, according to Time and these numbers were just low estimates.

MTN may have lost the Nations' Cup but they still have the Fifa World Cup to milk dry. They launched the festivities with MTN Nigeria last Saturday, and although they would look back at the Nations Cup with fondness, one can't help but notice what a big blow it would be for the y'ellow boys.

But maybe not, because in 2006, MTN did make clear that the World was their biggest deal in terms of significance despite the fact the the accumulated profits they may have made since sponsoring the Nations Cup may be more.

When MTN was announced as the sponsor of the Nations Cup, people felt a kinship with it because MTN can be said to be a company with deep African roots, having started in South Africa. But Orange, a French company through and through, may not have the same love that the previous sponsor encountered.

Previous title sponsors of the event have included Nokia and Coca Cola.

Whoever is in charge of Orange should know that this event is close to the heart of Africans, so we do not want any shenanigans.