Global pay-TV giant BeIN Sports has secured rights to this year’s African Football League (AFL), the new eight-team pan-African club competition, in 24 countries across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region after agreeing a last-minute deal with governing body the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

The deal was announced by BeIN the day the AFL kicked off (October 20) with African club champions Al Ahly (Egypt) drawing with Simba (Tanzania). It sees BeIN become the headline broadcaster for the competition despite its ongoing dispute with CAF over the termination of its rights deal in September.

This year’s competition will see the eight teams from three different regions of the continent compete for the AFL crown in a knockout format comprising quarter-finals, semi-finals, and a final, with each tie played over two legs home and away.

Along with Al Ahly and Simba, other teams include Seperance Sportive de Tunis (Tunisia), Wydad (Morocco), Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa), Atletico Petroleos de Luanda (Angola), TP Mazembe (DR Congo), and Enyimba (Nigeria).

Earlier this month, CAF announced the champions of this year’s AFL will receive just $4 million in prize money – a figure well short of the fees initially promised by the regional governing body.  

The brainchild of CAF president Patrick Motsepe, the AFL was launched last year as the CAF Africa Super League, which would feature 24 teams and run concurrently with CAF’s Champions League for domestic league winners across the continent.

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CAF said the league would take African club soccer to the next level and promised $100 million in prize money, with $10 million for the winner.

A month later, Gianni Infantino, president of soccer’s world governing body FIFA, announced the competition would be held in partnership with soccer's world governing body and be drastically reduced to eight teams.

The inaugural edition is understood to be a precursor to the full-fledged AFL competition, which will feature the top 24-ranked African clubs beginning with the 2024-25 season.

The announcement comes amid a rights dispute between BeIN and CAF after the governing body unilaterally terminated its media rights deal with the pay-TV operator, with the latter threatening to take legal action.

BeIN received a notice from CAF on September 1, informing the Qatar-based broadcaster that the deal between the two – struck in 2017, worth in the region of $415 million, and covering over 40 countries (some in Africa) – was canceled, effective immediately.

BeIN, which for the last six years has been broadcasting CAF action in North Africa, amongst other markets, has been accused of breaching its contract with CAF, with the body having said it is owed outstanding payments, worth around $80 million.

The termination of the contract threatened to derail CAF’s plans for the AFL to take African club soccer to the next level, with no headline broadcaster in place until the last minute.

The new deal, however, marks a thawing of relations between the pair, with a substantial degree of urgency being lent to resolutions as CAF has several other major club and national team competitions including its qualifying section for the 2026 men’s FIFA World Cup, while its Champions League and Confederations Cup club tournaments begin next month.

Meanwhile, FIFA announced all AFL quarter-finals will be broadcast live free-to-air worldwide via its streaming platform FIFA+, excluding South Africa, Tanzania, and the UK.

FIFA’s coverage, designed to boost the viewership of the competition, started with the opening match between Al Ahly and Simba.

The streaming platform also aired Atletico Petroleos de Luanda’s (Angola) defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) on Saturday (October 21), as well as TP Mazembe’s (DR Congo) win over Esperance of Tunis (Tunisia) and Eniymba’s (Nigeria) loss to Qydad Athletic Club (Morocco).

The streaming platform will additionally show the return legs of each of the games mentioned above tomorrow (October 24) and Tuesday (October 25).

The first legs of the semi-finals will be played on October 29, with the second legs played on November 1. The final will be held on November 11.