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June 25, 2021

Fifa bans former Caf VP Omari for a year in Lagardere case

Fifa has banned Constant Omari, a former member of its council, from all soccer activity for a year for a breach of its ethics code.

By Simon Ward

Fifa has banned Constant Omari, a former member of its council, from all soccer activity for a year for a breach of its ethics code.

Omari, also the former president of the Congo DR Football Association and former vice president of the Confederation of African football, was fined €66,444 ($79,339).

The sanction relates to benefits received from Lagardere Sports, the agency now known as Sportfive, when it was a partner of Caf.

Omari, who recently stepped down as president of the DR Congo federation after 16 years, had entered into a plea bargain arrangement with Fifa.

Under a 12-year, $1 billion deal with Caf, Lagardere was responsible for the distribution of broadcast and sponsorship rights to competitions including the Cup of Nations finals.

The agreement was due to run to 2028, only to be terminated by Caf in 2019, prompting a legal dispute.

In early 2019, Omari had overseen an amendment to the deal, under which Caf agreed to pay Lagardere $6.7 million for around $20 million of debt related to outstanding TV rights payments owned by Benin sports agency LC2 Group to the agency.

This is said to have caused “significant financial damage” to Caf.

Earlier this year, Omari was banned from standing for re-election to the Fifa council after failing an integrity check linked to Fifa’s ongoing probe into the Lagardere amendment.

In March, the decision was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which rejected an appeal from Omari over his exclusion.

At the time, Omari was serving as interim president of Caf, as former leader Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar had been banned for two years for violating Fifa’s ethics code.

In a statement yesterday, Fifa said: “A formal investigation against Mr Omari was opened on 7 January 2021 and concerned certain benefits accepted and received from Lagardere Sports (for a total amount of €66,444), in relation to the negotiations that he conducted for an agreement between Caf and Lagardere Sports in connection with the commercialisation of certain TV rights licenced to the LC2 company and to the collection of the latter's outstanding debt.

"The negotiations, which were led by Mr Omari on behalf of Caf, resulted in contractual provisions that were particularly detrimental to Caf, causing significant financial damage to the confederation."

"In this respect, the receipt of benefits created a conflict of interests that detracted from Mr Omari's ability to perform his duties to Caf with integrity and in an independent and purposeful manner."

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