Report: Struggling African Football League (AFL) finally gets a sponsor

Report: Struggling African Football League (AFL) finally gets a sponsor
Credit: Icon Sport

Saudi Arabian tourism body Visit Saudi will sponsor the first edition of the African Football League (AFL) formerly known as the Africa Super League.

The first edition of the tournament which was launched as a vehicle to advance the cause of African football and provide adequate funding to the various leagues will have a modest first edition despite the pomp and pageantry at the launching.

The President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced this early on Wednesday morning just a few days prior to the first AFL match between Simba SC of Tanzania and Al Ahly of Egypt.

Visit Saudi comes on board as late host; AFL prize money slashed

The African Football League (AFL) was launched as the Africa Super League in August 2022 by the president of the world football governing body FIFA, Gianni Infantino.

The tournament was billed to help African football become more attractive to investors in order to prevent football tourism and talent drain.

It was renamed to AFL later in 2022 and reworked from the original format to an eight-team knockout tournament comprising Africa’s most historic clubs. The start date was also pushed from August 2023 to October 2023 and was in danger of dying off due to difficulties in attracting sponsorship, investment and media partnership.

On Wednesday 18 October 2022, CAF President Patrice Motsepe announced that Saudi Arabian tourism body Visit Saudi will be the sponsor of the inaugural edition. The first game will take place in Tanzania with Simba hosting Al Ahly on 20 October 2023 and the final will be played on 11 November 2023.

CAF has announced, however, that the inaugural edition will only be a precursor to the originally announced format. The African football governing body intends to reintroduce the league with the planned format for the 2024/25 football season.

AFL will remain the name of the competition as CAF has done away with the “Super League” following advice from some “European friends” who suggested that the name be changed due to the backlash that the name faced when a similar effort was made in Europe a few years ago.

The prize money for the inaugural AFL totals $11.5 million with the winner getting $4 million. Each team will get $1 million guaranteed for participating.

AFL format and where to watch the games

CAF announced an initial 24-team tournament for the Africa Football League (AFL) with eight teams each to be selected from North Africa, Central/West Africa, and South/East Africa. There will be a maximum of three teams per selected country and these teams will play in a group.

A total of 197 games would be played from the start of the competition until the final, which was billed to be the “Super Bowl of Africa”. $1 billion was the expected income for this incredible project with around $100 million billed as prize money for the participants.

Following difficulties in getting sponsors for this event and the slashing of the prize money, the new format will see eight teams selected from Africa’s most popular leagues play a knockout tournament. They will all play two-legged quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final which will see the winner be crowned as the inaugural AFL champions.

Where to watch the AFL

Simba SC take on Al Ahly in the first AFL game of the season. Tanzania broadcaster Azam TV will broadcast select matches as will SuperSport Africa. Abu Dhabi Sports TV won the bid to broadcast the African Football League and will distribute it as more broadcast partners come into the fray. beIN Sports will not show any games because they are in dispute with CAF over primary payments.

This article was most recently revised and updated 7 months ago

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