The Confederation of African Football (CAF), soccer’s governing body on the continent, has officially launched the Africa Super League (ASL), a 24-team club tournament set to begin during the 2023-24 season.
The tournament, despite its soft launch at CAF’s general assembly in Tanzania yesterday (August 10), currently has no member teams confirmed, and no concrete details put in place as to its financing.
This financing will be crucial if the scheme is to get off the ground, given the overall prize fund is set at $100 million, with the winner to (initially) take home $11.6 million and all sides to get a minimum of $2.5 million.
So far, information about how the league will be financed has yet to be revealed. CAF’s most recent audit has shown that a substantial infusion of funds will be necessary for a major project like this to get off the ground – in the 2020-21 financial year, it recorded losses of $45 million.
Patrice Motsepe, CAF’s president, said at the launch: “Part of the overall strategy is using the Africa Super League to significantly and fundamentally improve the quality of soccer on the continent…
“The ASL is one of the most exciting developments in the history of African soccer and the objective in terms of what we are trying to achieve is very clear, number one is to make sure African club soccer is world-class and competes with the best in the world.”
In terms of financial backing, Motsepe mentioned “a huge amount of interest and enthusiasm in this project from private investors” but did not mention specific brands or companies.
The format envisages 197 matches in total being played from August to May, leading up to what CAF has described as a ‘Super Bowl-like’ final. The ASL will have participants from 16 countries, as well as promotion and relegation.
The scheme has backing from Fifa, whose president Gianni Infantino was at the competition’s soft launch.
He said: “The Africa Super League is a completely different proposition than what was proposed in Europe, which was a breakaway outside of the [existing] structures … This is done within the structure within CAF and within Fifa, within the soccer pyramid structure."
FIFA and CAF are working together on the project, which Infantino has said will “produce results and elevate African club soccer to the next level.”
FIFA’s backing of the ASL has come alongside the various CAF member associations pledging, also at the assembly, to support Infantino during the latter’s re-election campaign for the FIFA presidency next year.
Some of the initial details around the ASL – such as matters around promotion and relegation – are set to be announced in the coming weeks, CAF has said.
That governing body has also stated that all 54 of its member associations will get a cash award of $1 million per year from the overall ASL funding pot.
Motsepe said, on this front: “My objective is to get money for soccer infrastructure, for players, club owners, stakeholders. We are talking about anything between $250 million to $300 million every year.”
The competition will have to fit alongside the existing African pan-continental club competitions – the CAF Confederation Cup and the African Champions League.
On this front, Motsepe has said: “I want I want to be in a situation where there's competition among all the leagues and I want the Champions League to even get more prize money, and to be competitive.”
He added: "The success of club soccer is based on commercial viability. The Africa Super League for us is the most important intervention to the development and advancement of football in Africa.”