The Pitch for Prosperity: The African Football League

19 October 2023

Commercial / Contracts



Sports Business



The formally named African Super League ("ASL") was introduced by FIFA ("Fédération Internationale de Football Association") President Gianni Infantino in 2019 and aims to revolutionize football on the continent and uplift African clubs to compete on a global level. With the vision to generate substantial revenue, attract fan involvement, and retain African players, the ASL seeks to address the prominent and pressing issues of financial constraints faced by clubs. Taking cues from the failed European Super League, the ASL endeavours to avoid the same pitfalls and create a league that will not only co-exist with existing CAF ("Confédération Africaine de Football") competitions but also enhance their profile, having a positive effect on other African competitions.


Amidst the changes and delays, the ASL remains a focal point in African football, as FIFA and CAF back the ambitious journey to project African football to the top of the world. This article will explore the genesis, structure and current news around the ASL, delving deep into its potential impact on African football.


Failure of the European Super League


The main idea of forming the European Super League ("ESL") involved those at the near top in the hierarchical financial structure of European Football to continue exercising this power for wealth or bury themselves in debt trying.[1] The richest clubs in the United Kingdom and Spain along with other wealthy executives have been criticized for taking away from the tradition of football within the UK and Spain, by forming a competition with the 12 strongest teams across the abovementioned countries.[2]


The league would have had a major impact on the UK and Spain’s most established leagues, the Premier League and the LaLiga respectively as the wealthiest clubs would no longer participate. These successful local tournaments would ultimately suffer from this as the generation of income funnelling down from the wealthiest clubs within the domestic tournaments would be hindered, moreover, it was just impossible to justify that the formation of the ESL would result in a positive driving force for European Football and football globally. The clubs left out of the ESL are only partially at risk as the clubs joining the ESL face heavy backlash from distrustful fans.


A driving force central to the collapse of the ESL was undeniably the football fans, especially the fans of who’s club was being affected by the proposed ESL.[3] The football fans of who’s clubs were affected protested with intent and generally were not supporting of their clubs being subjected to the ESL. A prominent reason for the outrage of the fans is explained by their distrust in the wealthy executives and owners that run their club.[4] Most fans are of the view that joining the ESL shows intent to abandon the values and traditions of their domestic leagues/tournaments. The football fans do not trust that their owners will receive the profits from ESL in a way that will improve the club positively and uphold the century old traditions and values, they believe that the owners are perhaps selfish and aim at the financialization of clubs, disregarding the rich history involved. The fans showed their persuasive power in European football, from protests to social media responses, the distaste and risk of harmful backlash allowed the fans to exercise their power to an extent.


Facing strong opposition from the collective power and vocal outcry of footballing fans, the ESL was forlorn. The desire for financial control by wealthy clubs and executives along with undermining the rich history and values of the UK and Spanish domestic football proved to be strong factors supplementing the collapse of the proposed ESL. This makes it clear to fans the role they play in shaping football and is perhaps it is a reminder that preserving the integrity and inclusivity of football will always prove to be triumphal.


The Genesis of the ASL


What if Africa on the other hand could learn from the attempts in Europe, creating a league that improves the status of African football? This familiar Super League concept was brought to the table in an attempt to revolutionise football on the continent, but how could such a league be justified, and how would it address the prominent issue of financial constraints faced by African clubs?


The ASL was first introduced by the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, during an announcement on the 28th of November 2019.[5] Infantino stated, “"we have to take the 20 best African clubs and put them in an Africa league."[6] The initial goal of the ASL was to financially supplement clubs in Africa as to develop football, the players, infrastructure, and fan base.[7] Infantino expressed that this league could generate $200 million in revenue and would thus find itself amongst the top 10 leagues in the world.[8] An emphasis was put on aiming to increase fan involvement and to retain African talent resulting in financial strength of African clubs.


A prominent issue facing African football is that of a lack of finances and mismanagement. There is currently a two-fold issue, the first being that lots of clubs in Africa cannot provide the necessary salaries to keep their most talented players and thus lose them to wealthy oversees clubs. This is evident by the number of Africans playing Europe’s top leagues. The simultaneous problem facing African football is that the high-level players in these clubs often don’t get the necessary exposure as the club is involved in an unattractive, poorly advertised competition that does not grab the attention of wealthy managers. These players stay at the poorer clubs and never get scouted, never getting the opportunity to develop their game and play at higher levels. This has a strong negative impact on the standard of African football in general. These clubs enter a turmoil of losing sponsorship money and losing the support of investors and fans as the level of the players, clubs and competitions decrease. This is all too familiar in African football, not to mention mismanagement and corruption that is present in an attempt to exit this unsatisfactory financial status.


Thus, the ASL aims to supplement these clubs not only financially but also ensure the clubs are “managed and operated at the same professional, ethical and governance level as UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF and other Confederations” as explained by CAF president, Dr. Patrice Motsepe ("Motsepe").[9] This is supplemented by Motsepe’s stating that “a significant amount of the money from the CAF Super League (ASL) will be invested back into African football and part of the process involves giving $1 million every year to every one of CAF's 54 Member Associations as a contribution to football and youth development.”[10] It was further stated that CAF will receive $50 million per year which would be utilised to develop football, employ those of the highest standard, improve competitions as to attract spectators, viewers, wealthy investors or sponsors.[11]


The ASL’s original proposals set the stage for a bold and ambitious endeavour aimed at transforming football in Africa. FIFA’s vision sought to uplift African clubs, players and competition to be categorised amongst the best in the world. Although the ASL has faced much criticism since 2019, success will be evident upon clubs retaining players, providing exposure, and improving management. We have now been given hope that CAF and the ASL will pave the way for more prosperous and globally competitive football.


Structuring of the AFL


It was only in August 2022 that the ASL was officially launched by Motsepe. At a meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, the CAF President was joined by the FIFA President, leading African football clubs, African and European football legends, the President and Representatives of the CAF’s 54 member associations.[12] It was at this meeting that the ASL was fully explained.


It was stated at this meeting that the goal was to kick off the league in August 2023.[13] The structure of the league at this time was to involve 24 clubs from 16 countries across the continent.[14] The 16 countries were categorised into three regions (North, central/West, Southern/East) where 8 clubs from each region would make up the 24 involved.[15] Each country could only have a maximum of 3 clubs competing in the league.[16] The league was said to run from August to May each year (10 months) in which 197 matches would be held.[17] A team would play a maximum of 21 matches (the finalists) during this period and would be subject to promotion playoffs as well as relegation.[18] The prize money for the league was set to be $100 million with the winner receiving $11.5 million.[19] Qualifying for the first ASL will based on the countries CAF ranking over the last five years.[20]


In July 2022 before the official launch of the league, Motsepe released a statement to news outlets clarifying the many questions he had received on the ASL. In this statement he stated that ”we also want to look to increase the prize money for the men's and women's CAF Champions Leagues ("CL")." This is a clear indication that the ASL will not extinguish the CL and will exist alongside, moreover, the CL will also be further developed. Many concerns have been raised about the ASL potentially having a negative impact on the CL but how would this happen? The ASL, if administered as planned, will generate a host of fans, investors and broadcasting covering the increased level of football and clubs in Africa. This would draw the attention of many globally and hopefully have a positive affect on the CL with so many eyes on African football.


Changes to the ASL since its initial launch


The most prominent change to the ASL in recent months is that Motsepe, has stated that the name will be changed, “a name change is, therefore, on the agenda.[21]" The reason for this is obviously linked to failure of the European Super League as many argue that the word “Super” now has negative connotations related to such failure. The name has since been changed to the African Football League ("AFL") and this reference will be maintained infra.[22]


The other major change is that the original 24 teams have since been massively reduced to only 8 clubs; leaving many countries fuming as they no longer have teams representing them.[23] This was stated by Muhammad F. Sidat, head of professional soccer at CAF, in which he stated, “The competition at the initial stage is composed of 24 teams, but for the first edition that we consider as a pilot we will have eight clubs.”[24] As Sidat explains, the first edition of the AFL is considered a ‘pilot’ and we may see more clubs enter the league further down the line.


The teams will still qualify based on their countries CAF ranking over the last five years. The teams that have been confirmed to be participating in the first ‘pilot’ of the league are the 2023 CAF Champions League semi-finalists Al Ahly SC of Egypt, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, Esperance of Tunisia and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.[25] TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Enyimba of Nigeria, Simba of Tanzania and Petro Atletico of Angola.[26] It has been recently confirmed by CAF that the AFL will run alongside the CL as well as the Confederation Cup in the 2023-24 season.[27]


The last change to the AFL could rather be considered a delay. It was aimed to kick-off in August of this year but has been pushed to October the 20th, therefore a two-month delay.[28] It is not clear why CAF are not on track, but the title change could be causing some sponsorship delays.


How can Africa afford such a league?


As previously mentioned, Infantino stated that the AFL aims generate $200 million in revenue. The question that might plague your mind is where does this money come from? It is well known that CAF in recent times have been in financial turmoil but in the last couple months, specifically at CAF’s 45th Ordinary General Assembly, a positive shift may be in progress.


An important question to ask is who is going to sponsor such a big tournament. CAF themselves have not been in the best position realising a $15.7 million loss in the 2022-23 financial year.[29] Additionally, ever since a US$1 billion rights agreement with media agency Lagardère was terminated back in 2019.[30] FIFA on the other hand have been doing increasingly well over the last couple years and had a total revenue of $7.57 million from 2019-2022.[31] But is this enough to fund the AFL? The answer lies in the Gulf nation. In the last couple weeks it became evident that CAF and Saudi Arabian Football Federation had been in discussion as they signed a cooperation and development agreement for the next five years. This agreement is aimed at overall development and growth for African and Saudi football.


All the money being invested into the AFL by the Saudi Arabian sponsors ($200m) includes much speculation. In the last couple months Saudia Arabia have agreed to support the joint bid between Morocco, Spain and Portugal for the 2030 World Cup.[32] Additionally, Saudi Arabia wanted to stage the tournament that year in a joint approach with Egypt and Greece, but this ruled out by Egypt’s sports minister Ashraf Sobhly.[33] It is also evident from the confirmation that Saudia Arabia is the Club World Cup 2023 host, that Sadia Arabi is backed by FIFA and Infantino.[34] It is speculated that Saudia Arabia have been tactical in trying to win over support in Africa as well as FIFA’s approval as the football governing body.[35]


Backed by the increase of sponsorship backed by Saudia Arabia, CAF have been doing increasingly well as was expressed in CAF’s 45th Ordinary General Assembly in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire earlier this month.[36] CAF stated they have posted commercial revenues totalling $125.2 million, this being a 17% year on year increase.[37] The huge growth in revenue is explained by the increase in sponsorship and television rights indicating a road to financial recovery.[38] Prize money in all CAF competitions has realised a total increase of 26%, a sign of Motsepe’s loyalty to what has previously been promised.[39] Development expenditure increased from $19.3 million to $24 million, again a reflection of good investments having positive turnovers.


It is clear that CAF have sided strongly with Saudia Arabia which has provided drastic financial improvement. It can be argued that FIFA’s (Infantino’s) fond liking of Saudia Arabia, as seen from Saudi Arabia’s recent bidding attempts, backed by FIFA’s aims to improve football in Africa calls for coupling the two to be a rather obvious endeavour. Motsepe has recently stated that he would like to get more sponsors on board to fund not just the tournament but the development of African football as a whole, there is however a positive message being portrayed with regards to African football. The existence of the AFL backed by the relevant sponsors sets the stage for financial recovery and development of football in Africa.


Most recent news on the AFL


An exciting update involves that of the quarter final draw for the league that took place on 2 September.[40] The draw produced the following quarter final fixtures:


Al Ahly SC (Egypt) vs Simba SC (Tanzania)

Esperance (Tunisia) vs TP Mazembe (DR Congo)

Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) vs Enyimba (Nigeria)

Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) vs Petro Atletico (Angola)


The tournament will be four weeks long with the opening round starting from 20th of October, and the final set for the 11th of November.[41]


A rather unfortunate update has surfaced and involves Mamelodi Sundowns’ quarter final opponents, Petro Atletico. The Angolan side face a possible eliminate from the League and are involved in ongoing disciplinary processes.[42] The team has been accused of making payments to another club to win the local cup last season, as well as accusations of bribes have been surfacing and are being investigated.[43] The Angolan team's involvement in the AFL now rests at the hand of the Angolan Football Federation and the outcome they are pressured to produce before the AFL kicks off.




The AFL stands as a bold and ambitious endeavour to transform African football, backed by both FIFA and CAF. Despite changes to its structure and a two-month delay in its kick-off, the AFL's potential to generate substantial revenue and elevate the profile of African clubs remains intact. As questions arise about the source of sponsorship funding and the mysterious strategic cooperation with Saudi Arabia, the true implications of the AFL on African football's financial recovery and development linger in uncertainty. With the AFL's name change and the aim to coexist with existing competitions, a veil of mystery surrounds its ultimate impact on African football's landscape. Will the AFL pave the way for a more prosperous and globally competitive football scene on the continent, or will unforeseen challenges derail this ambitious project? As the October kick-off approaches, football enthusiasts eagerly await the unfolding of this enigmatic chapter in African football history.





[1] Mabert, T. (2012, July 12). Why a European Super League Would Be Bad for Football. Bleacher Report. Retrieved from

[2] European Super League: Why It Failed." (2021, May 4). Last Word on Sports. Retrieved from

[3] (n2 above)

[4] (n2 above)

[5] Admin. (2023, June 7). 10 things to know about the African Super League. Frenchside. Retrieved from

[6] Dove, E. (2021, July 13). How viable is an African Super League, given Europe's disastrous attempt? ESPN. Retrieved from

[7] (n5 above)

[8] (n6 above)

[9] CAF. (n.d.). CAF launches groundbreaking Africa Super League. Retrieved from

[10] Vardien, T. (2022, July 4). African Super League to kick off in 2023, CAF boss Patrice Motsepe confirms. News24. Retrieved from

[11] (n9 above)

[12] (n9 above)

[13] (n9 above)

[14] (n9 above)

[15] (n9 above)

[16] (n9 above)

[17] (n9 above)

[18] (n9 above)

[19] (n9 above)

[20] Sport News Africa. (2023, February 15). CAF - Football: African Super League: A roller coaster for the first edition. Retrieved from

[21] AFP. (2023, June 25). African Super League delayed, fewer clubs, name change mooted. Johannesburg. Retrieved from

[22] Hadebe, S. (2023, July 13). Motsepe and Infantino confirm October kickoff for Caf's Super League. Retrieved from

[23] Sport News Africa. (n.d.). CAF - Football: African Super League: A roller coaster for the first edition. Retrieved from

[24] (n23 above)

[25] (n21 above)

[26] Madyira, M. (2023, September 2). "African Super League: Teams, Prize Money, Format, and Everything We Know So Far." URL:

[27] (n22 above)

[28] Warshaw, A. (2023, July 14). Scaled-back African Super League to kick off in October with promise of growth to come. Inside World Football. Retrieved from

[29] Said, N. (2023, July 13). New Caf football league to kick off in October, says Infantino. BusinessLive. Retrieved from

[30] Sim, J. (2023, May 22). Report: CAF and Saudi Arabia discuss US$200m African Super League sponsorship. SportsPro Media. Retrieved from

[31] FIFA. (2023, May 9). Finances. Retrieved from

[32] (n30 above)

[33] (n30 above)

[34] (n30 above)

[35] (n30 above)

[36] CAF. (2023, July 13). CAF announces a significant increase in commercial revenues at the 45th Ordinary General Assembly. Retrieved from

[37] (n36 above)

[38] (n36 above)

[39] (n30 above)

[40] (n26 above)

[41] (n26 above)

[42] Mtuta, L. (2023, September 4). "Downs' African Football League opponents may drop out!" URL:

[43] (n42 above)



DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the author and don't necessarily reflect those of Javelin Sports Consulting. The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is not a substitute for consulting with a qualified legal professional. The content is based on general knowledge and research up to the publication date and may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this article. Always seek the independent advice of a legal practitioner regarding your specific legal concerns.

- Authored By Matthew Freer, With Editorial Work By Shane Wafer And Nick Flowers, Esq.