The African Super League which seems to be a far-off dream and distant possibility received huge boost recently with the news that Saudi Arabia has signed a deal with the Confederation of African Football of $200m (£160m) to sponsor the new competition.
The agreement could help to secure the Saudis the continent’s support for future World Cup bid.
Last week, the continent’s football body said it signed a five-year deal with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to “foster growth opportunities for African and Saudi Arabian football”.
CAF president Patrice Motsepe said: “CAF is excited to work together and partner with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to develop and grow football on our continent and globally.
“There are also specific areas for mutually beneficial partnerships that we are discussing and announcements will be made in due course.”
The African Super League is a proposed continental football league that aims to bring together the best football clubs from across Africa to compete in a single, unified league. The model of a the UEFA Champions League has encouraged the idea. The concept is that the league would bring together elite football clubs to create a new level of competition on the continent, thus helping popularize and professionalize African football.
The new competition would be a platform for the top African players to showcase their talents and compete against each other in one place. It could also create a shared pool of resources so that clubs could benefit from more experienced scouting, coaching, and other support personnel from across the continent. This would help achieve uniformity in terms of standards and practices, reduce costs, and improve the quality of the competition.
The league would also help to spread the sport to more countries and encourage collaboration between clubs from different nations. This could bridge gaps between countries and create a global platform for African teams to shine on and attract sponsorships. It could also spark more interest among African fans and develop an engaged fan base for the league.
Heavily supported by the world football governing body, FIFA, and its president Gianni Infantino, CAF had been due to launch the 8-team tournament in August as part of plans to raise the global profile of African clubs and generate increased revenue.
According to reports, a competition could launch as early as the 2024-25 season, with Saudi Arabia sponsoring a simplified eight-team tournament at launch .
The Super League, first mooted by Infantino in 2018 and announced by Motsepe, last October, is planned to have prize fund of $100m that includes $11.6m for the winner – almost $8m more than currently on offer for the winners of the African Champions League – and a solidarity fund that bring each of the 54 CAF member associations $1m towards football development annually .
The Super League plans have been in discussion for five years and when first announcing the tournament Infantino said that an African Super League would generate revenues of $100m, making it among the top ten leagues in the world.
In addition , he also planned an appeal to raise $1bn in order to give every African country a football stadium that complies with the specifications of FIFA.
With this development and the strengthening of ties between Saudi Football authorities and the games governors in Africa would boost a long-planned bid for the Kingdom to host the FIFA World Cup.
Last year Saudi Arabia’s Sports Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal says Saudi Arabia would love to host a future World Cup.
“Why not? Who wouldn’t want to host the World Cup?,” he said. “We host a lot of events in the region.
“Any country in the world would love to host the World Cup. It’s an amazing tournament and it’s good for every country to host such an event.
The Saudi prince comment highlights the growing rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar which hosted glamorously and successfully the last World Cup The Saudis would love to balance the equation and even the scores by organizing and staging the Mundial in the nearest future.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are heavily engaged in a proxy battle to be the epicenter of Asian soccer. The presidency of the Asian Football Confederation is vacant in 2027 and both have potential candidates lined up.
Since elections in February, the presidents of the Saudi and Qatari soccer federations — Yasser Almisehal and Sheikh Hamad Al Thani, respectively — are members of the FIFA Council, the executive body that makes the decisions in world soccer.
The neighbors and rivals were competing to host the 2027 Asian Cup, until a solution emerged that rewarded both.
Qatar stepped up when China handed back hosting rights to the 2023 edition, citing the Covid-19 pandemic, and that tournament will start in Doha in January. The AFC then awarded Saudi Arabia the 2027 edition — a likely audition for ambitions to stage a future World Cup, possibly in 2034.
The 2026 World Cup will be hosted in North America, with Canada, Mexico and the US sharing duties. The soonest the Kingdom could host the tournament is 2030 and no official host nation has yet been named.
Interestingly, no Nigerian club will feature in the inaugural edition of the African Super League, Enyimba of Aba was the only Nigerian side earlier listed to participate in the league, but the Peoples Elephant and some other big names in African football have been excluded from the competition.
The eight teams expected to feature in the inaugural edition are Al Ahly (Egypt), Petro de Luanda (Angola), TP Mazembe (DR Congo), Horoya (Guinea), Wydad Athletic Club (Morocco), Simba SC (Tanzania), Esperance de Tunis (Tunisia) and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
Raja Athletic Club of Morocco, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa, Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia, ASEC Mimosas of Cote d’Ivoire, and Zamalek of Egypt are some of the other big clubs excluded from the competition.