Sports News of Thursday, 20 July 2017
The Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will meet on Thursday to rubber stamp dramatic changes to Africa’s top competition after recommendations made at a conference in Morocco.
The showpiece Africa Cup of Nations finals is set to be expanded and its contentious timing changed, but its frequency will remain every two years as proposals from a conference with top experts held in Rabat called for changes with the times.
The tournament is likely to be moved to June and July, instead of January and February, and will increase from 16 to 24 teams.
The two annual club competitions – the African Champions League and African Confederation Cup – are likely to run from August to May rather than inside a calendar year, as has been the case for decades.
Changes to refereeing structures, coaching standards and medical preparedness were also recommended.
Caf’s executive committee meets in Rabat on Thursday and is expected to formalise all the major recommendations.
“From a sporting perspective, it will allow more opportunity for footballers across the continent,” said Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick.
The insistence the Nations Cup should stay in January, which has often infuriated European clubs as they lose their African players during the season, could soon be a thing of the past.
But Africa’s flagship sporting event will still be played every two years as the tournament is a leading source of revenue for Caf, which would lose half of that money should the finals be played every four years, as some proposed.
There was no opposition to the change of the timing of the finals, which will please African players based at European clubs, who are regularly involved in a club-versus-country row every two years.
The increase in the number of finalists is an attempt to increase marketing and TV revenue, talking a leaf out of the book of Uefa whose European Championship increased in size in 2016.
“It will increase revenue for Caf and we can triple our income,” added Pinnick. “It will also force more infrastructure development.”
The symposium also recommended that requirements for hosting the Nations Cup must be increased, particularly around the issue of pitches and hotels, whose poor quality has drawn heavy criticism at recent finals.
This year’s expansion of the number of clubs in the Champions League and Confederation Cup has meant the top teams in Africa have been forced to play group matches between May and July.
Usually, many of these sides would be enjoying end-of-season holidays prior to preparing for a new campaign.
The criticism of the dates has led to the recommendation that the Champions League and Confederation Cup will run from August to May – possibly as early as next year.
Similar to the European Champions League, the group phase would be finished by the end of year to allow the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals to be completed by May.