FIFA president Gianni Infantino addresses delegates during the CAF President's Outstanding Achievement Awards, in Kigali, Rwanda March 14, 2023. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana/File Photo
(Reuters) - The kick-off of the new eight-team African Football League has been confirmed for Oct. 20 by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who made the announcement at the Confederation of African Football's (CAF) General Assembly in Abidjan on Thursday.
The competition has been drastically scaled down from the original proposal of 24 teams as CAF announced a $15.7 million loss for the 2022-23 financial year.
"It will have eight great teams, which will be followed in the future with a bigger version," Infantino told delegates. "We have to invest in African club football as well as national team football.
"It is our responsibility, duty and task, and with the work and contribution of all of us as a team, we will succeed."
Not much more is known of the competition a little over three months before it is set to kick off, with CAF yet to formally confirm the participating teams.
Reuters understands the eight are set to be South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns, who are owned by the family of CAF president Patrice Motsepe, Petro Atletico from Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo’s TP Mazembe, Al Ahly from Egypt, Horoya from Guinea, Wydad Casablanca from Morocco, Tanzania’s Simba and Esperance of Tunisia.
The competition will run concurrently with CAF's Champions League for domestic league winners across the continent and is not a replacement.
Details around broadcasters, sponsors and logistics also remain under wraps for now.
Motsepe has spoken at length in recent years of needing to improve the African football 'product' to make it more appealing to a global audience, with the new league said to be key to that.
"We have recognised for many years that African football players have been among the best in the world, but we have to improve the appeal of African football, its commercial viability and its capacity to sustain itself," Motsepe told delegates.
CAF also confirmed a loss for the previous financial year, but that is off the back of a 17% improvement in revenues to $125.2 million, which they anticipate will grow further in 2023-24.
The deficit was not unexpected after CAF settled out of court for an undisclosed figure with commercial agency Lagardere last November, having cancelled a 10-year, $1-billion television and marketing rights deal in 2019.
"CAF had to take some difficult decisions on the long-standing dispute with some of our partners by settling matters out of court," CAF said in a statement on Thursday.
"This, plus other accounting standards provisions recommended by CAF auditors, were fully provided for in the financials."