Iris Sport Media has been appointed as a sales agent for media rights covering Africa-zone qualifying matches in advance of men's soccer’s 2026 FIFA World Cup.
The firm has been selected to sell those rights across the Americas, Europe, and Asia, by the Saudi Sports Company (SSC), which was itself awarded the global rights for the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) 2026 qualifiers after a tender process.
That tender, issued in July, was handled by global soccer’s governing body FIFA through a deal with the various African national soccer federations dating back to 2019.
Iris was only founded earlier this year and is headed up by Ioris Francini, formerly the president of the IMG Media sports agency heavyweight between May 2014 and December 2019.
All 273 CAF qualifying matches for the World Cup are included in the rights package Iris has secured.
It is hoped, GlobalData understands, that most deals with broadcasters in single markets will have been tied up by Iris in time for the next round of qualifiers, in mid-2024.
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The 53-team CAF qualifiers for the World Cup began last week and run until October 2025. In total, as many as 10 African sides could end up qualifying for that tournament, which will take place across Mexico, the US, and Canada.
The qualifying process has been revamped for this World Cup, with eight groups of six and one of five, and all teams in those groups playing each other home and away.
The new CAF process for qualification was unveiled earlier this year.
Last week, it was unveiled that the FIFA+ streaming platform, Brazilian YouTube channel CazéTV, and German subscription-based TV internet platform Sportdigital Fussball, would cover the African zone qualifiers.
All matches will be available live with English commentary on FIFA+ internationally, except in the Middle East and North Africa region, parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and India and Portugal.
Francini said: “We are excited to have secured our first deal in top-quality world soccer and to be working with the SSC and CAF on behalf of FIFA. Our aim will be to ensure the best and widest possible exposure for the World Cup qualifying matches with broadcasters throughout the world.
“The next World Cup will see a record number of countries from the continent taking part in the expanded tournament.”
Previously, CAF has run three rounds of qualifying, with earlier stages involving lower-ranked countries and producing a reduced line-up for the final qualification stage.
The change puts the bigger African nations in greater jeopardy of not qualifying, competing as they must against more teams.
It also means the whole process will take 23 months as opposed to the six months that the qualification process took for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Amil Lone, chief executive at SSC, added: “Securing the global rights for CAF further solidifies the SSC’s role as a key player in the international sports media landscape. And our appointment of Iris is a testament to the company’s commitment to delivering top-tier sporting content worldwide.
“This collaboration marks a significant milestone for the SSC. Together with Iris, we look forward to delivering a memorable and immersive viewing experience for football fans across the globe.”
Earlier this month, meanwhile, CAF agreed to a three-year media rights deal with New World TV (NWTV), the Togo-based satellite television network.
The agreement covers the free-to-air and paid broadcast rights to all CAF competitions from 2023 to 2025 in 46 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.