As the 1998 World Cup in France will no doubt prove, football is very big business today. But is Africa getting a fair slice of this lucrative cake? Osasu Obayiuwana and Anver Versi look at the economics of soccer in Africa.
Passionate football fans across the globe are eagerly awaiting the 1998 World Cup finals. This is perhaps especially true in Africa, as Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Cameroon hope to push African football, which has made major strides over the last two decades, a step further.
Money talks in international football however, and the amount of finance available for a team's pre-tournament preparation is crucial. The shortage of management funds has been a serious problem for the African game. Many countries, already coping with pressing economic problems, were forced to withdraw from the preliminary rounds of the African Nations Cup and the World Cup. And the countries that have been able to take part rely heavily on government funding to survive.
The commercialisation of football, which is already so advanced in Europe and has indeed become the lifeblood of the game, is only just taking root in Africa. The Union of European Football Associations (USFA) has made a fortune out of the European Champions League by creating a product that is packaged for television. The result has been very lucrative fees from TV companies and backing from corporate advertisers. Budgets runs into billions of dollars.
Borrowing a leaf from the European book, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) created the African Champions League last year. They sold the rights to a French company, Mediafoot, which is owned by Jean Claude Darmon and which also has television rights to the African Nations Cup.
This deal, which was the first time that prize money was attached to a major African club competition, saw Moroccan club Raja Casablanca carting away the winner's prize of $425,000. Teams that made it to the last eight were paid appearance fees of $150,000 and a further $11,000 for each point they scored in the competition. "The introduction of the league has been a big plus for African football and we are proud to be part of that experiment," commented Abdellah Rhallam, the president of Raja. "Almost every African club has financial problems and this has had repercussions on the continental competitions [ldots] The money involved changes everything and is a real motivation to do well," he concluded.
Africa's emergence as a major footballing force on the international stage began when Cameroon reached the quarter-final stage during the 1990 World Cup finals. Their performance...