The Real Price of AFCON: The Opportunity Cost and the “Price to Play”

The African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the premier football tournament of Africa; organized by the Confederation of African Football, transcends the apparent spectacle of teams vying for glory, revealing a complex interplay of financial investments, sponsorships, and revenue generation behind the scenes. Beyond the apparent gathering of African football teams, this event operates within a sophisticated financial framework, with substantial costs incurred by both organizers and participating teams. This Article seeks to illuminate the intricate financial dynamics of AFCON, offering insights into the formidable challenges faced by teams, the lucrative prospects for sponsors, and the profound economic ramifications for the host nation. Let’s explore together, the financial underpinnings of AFCON, where the stakes are not merely tallied in goals but intricately measured in dollars and cents.

The Prestige of AFCON: A Football Fan’s Perspective

As an avid football fan, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) beckons not only for its riveting matches and exceptional talent but also for the prestige that envelops this revered tournament. AFCON holds a special place in the hearts of both players and fans alike, representing the pinnacle of African football excellence.

AFCON carries a certain mystique and allure that makes it truly special. It is a chance for African nations to showcase their football skills and National pride on a global stage. The tournament is steeped in the history and tradition of the African people, with a rich tapestry of captivating moments and legendary players that have etched their names into the annals of football history. 

The allure of the AFCON is evident in the fact that despite it being a mid-season tournament, Approximately 500 million people from 160 nations watched the TotalEnergies AFCON Cameroon 2021 matches on TV. That in itself, is more than enough evidence of the attention that the AFCON commands. Even more remarkable is the fact that the number of nations above is about 40  more than the TotalEnergies AFCON Egypt 2019. CAF had 1.4 billion streaming impressions on its digital pages and there were 351.4 million online video views related to the TotalEnergies AFCON Cameroon 2021.

For football fans, witnessing the drama and excitement that unfolds on the pitch during AFCON is an experience like no other. The electrifying atmosphere in the stadiums, the colorful displays of support from passionate fans, and the undeniable talent of the players combine to create an unforgettable spectacle.

Furthermore, AFCON transcends borders and unites people across the continent. It fosters a sense of unity, bringing together diverse cultures, languages, and backgrounds. It serves as a powerful platform to celebrate the shared love for the beautiful game and to showcase the immense talent that Africa has to offer.

So, while the business aspect of AFCON is essential to its existence, it is the intangible prestige and reverence associated with the tournament that truly captures the hearts and imaginations of football fans. AFCON is more than just a ball and a business; it represents a powerful celebration of sport, unity, and the enduring spirit of African football.

Unveiling the Financial Underpinnings of the AFCON

As we delve deeper into The Ball Business division of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), it becomes clear that there are significant financial investments involved in organizing and participating in this prestigious tournament. Stay with us and allow us shed some light on the price to play in AFCON.

The Cost to Organize AFCON

Organizing the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) demands significant financial resources, encompassing various aspects such as securing stadiums, upgrading facilities, managing logistics, and securing funding. The financial commitments are substantial, with stadiums required to meet the standards set by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to ensure a high-quality playing environment. Additionally, training facilities must be adequately equipped to support the needs of participating teams. The logistical challenges of organizing a tournament of this magnitude are immense, including transportation, accommodation, and meals for teams and officials.

In the case of Cameroon, the government invested over 520 billion CFA ($885 million) in renovating and upgrading infrastructure, including roads, hospitals, airports, and hotels. Notably, the newly built Olembé Stadium in Yaoundé, with a capacity of 60,000, cost around $280 million. Douala boasts the impressive Japoma Stadium, a 50,000-seater facility that cost $240 million. Bafoussam and Limbé each received 20,000-capacity stadiums, and the 25,000-seater stadium in Garoua underwent renovation.

The $280m Olembé stadium. (Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP)

The government also funded a new five-star hotel in Douala, the Krystal Palace, where the official CAF delegation stayed. Approximately 80% of the hotels accommodating teams, journalists, and tourists were either new constructions or had undergone renovations.

Sponsorships and Broadcasting Rights

Sponsorships play a crucial role in financing AFCON. Companies recognize the value of associating their brand with such a high-profile sporting event, and thus, invest significant sums of money to become official sponsors. These sponsorships provide the necessary financial support for the tournament.

In addition to sponsorships, broadcasting rights are a major revenue stream for AFCON. Television networks and digital platforms pay substantial fees to secure the exclusive rights to broadcast the matches, allowing millions of fans around the world to tune in and experience the excitement of the tournament.

In a notable development, Togolese media powerhouse, New World TV, has secured the broadcast rights for AFCON 2024, outbidding the renowned Supersports TV. With a winning proposal of 80 million US Dollars and a commitment to multilingual broadcasting, New World TV emerged as the victor in this competitive bidding war, signaling a potential shift in the media landscape. This strategic move not only underscores the growing influence of New World TV but also highlights the evolving dynamics within the world of sports broadcasting in Africa.

The advent of a competition of this nature in the African Football media landscape highlights the fertility of the space as a ground of copious opportunities and it is obvious that New World TV just happens to be the early movers in a fast-growing industry.

Economic Impact

The economic impact of AFCON cannot be disregarded. The tournament attracts thousands of fans from around the world, who travel to the host country, contribute to the local economy, and create job opportunities in various sectors such as tourism, hospitality, and transportation. It also boosts the international reputation of the host country, attracting future investments and promoting tourism.

Furthermore, the AFCON ball itself carries significant business opportunities. Official match balls are often manufactured by major sporting goods brands, leading to lucrative sponsorship and licensing deals.

For example, as a result of the substantial financial commitments made by Cameroon in 2021, the direct income from traveling supporters and tourists in 2022 is estimated to be over $200 million. Domestically, the tournament provided a welcome relief from lockdowns and political tensions. It played a significant role in fostering a sense of unity among Cameroonians from different regions, contributing positively to the ongoing peace-making process. Overall, for Cameroon and its citizens, hosting the AFCON emerged as a clear winner, both on and off the pitch.

The financial aspects of AFCON highlight the magnitude of investment and the opportunities it presents for both organizers and sponsors. It’s a testament to the significance and appeal of this illustrious tournament in the world of football business.

The Costly Investments: Teams’ Perspectives

Exploring the financial dimensions of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) football tournament unveils the substantial investments demanded from participating teams. The pursuit of the esteemed AFCON trophy entails navigating financial hurdles, underscoring the significant financial commitment teams make to showcase their talent on the grand stage.

Top-tier training facilities stand as a prerequisite for teams aiming to compete at the highest level in AFCON. Securing or constructing state-of-the-art facilities aligned with AFCON’s rigorous standards becomes imperative. These facilities, equipped with cutting-edge technology and amenities, play a pivotal role in enhancing players’ performance and well-being. Infrastructure upgrades, including improvements to stadium facilities and ensuring robust security measures, further contribute to the financial considerations teams must address.

The logistical demands of AFCON necessitate extensive travel across host countries, often covering vast distances. Transportation costs, encompassing flights and ground travel, accumulate rapidly. Additionally, teams bear the responsibility of arranging comfortable and secure accommodation for players, coaching staff, and support personnel throughout the tournament. This aspect poses budgetary challenges, particularly for smaller football associations that must meticulously manage resources to provide an optimal experience for their team. llustratively, the Black Stars of Ghana and Mozambique’s senior team shared the New Year’s Eve festivities in South Africa. The Black Stars of Ghana are slated for a 10-day training camp, shielded from public and press access during their sessions. A test match against Botswana is scheduled for Chris Hughton’s men on January 8 before their journey to Abidjan. In parallel, counterparts including Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cape Verde, Nigeria, Angola, and Guinea have opted for pre-tournament preparations in the United Arab Emirates.

Prioritizing the health and fitness of players emerges as a paramount concern during the tournament. Teams must invest in qualified medical staff to conduct regular health screenings, deliver medical treatment, and supervise players’ physical well-being. This entails expenditures on medical equipment, physiotherapy, and any necessary medical interventions. Recognizing the critical role player health plays, teams refrain from compromising in this crucial area, as injuries or fatigue can significantly influence on-field performance.

In preparation for AFCON, teams engage in extensive training and team bonding activities. Training camps, lasting several weeks, serve as platforms for fine-tuning tactics, strategies, and coordination. These camps involve various expenses, including venue rentals, coaching staff salaries, and training equipment. Additionally, teams may schedule friendly matches against other national teams or local clubs to simulate game scenarios and gauge their readiness for the tournament.

Within the   financial ecosystem of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), sponsorships take center stage as pivotal elements, presenting teams and organizers with a plethora of lucrative opportunities. Beyond the sheer excitement of competition, AFCON’s financial dynamics delve into the realm of sponsorships, offering additional revenue streams and vital support for diverse financial requirements.

The AFCON business ecosystem, sculpted by sponsorships and enticing financial incentives, becomes a landscape teeming with opportunities for participating teams. The tournament’s financial allure stands as a substantial draw, necessitating a strategic approach to sponsorship management. Recognizing and capitalizing on these opportunities is crucial, marking a profound understanding of the expansive economic prospects that lie within the world of African football.

Sponsorships serve as a financial lifeline for teams engaged in AFCON and even the Confederation of African Football itself (who are  recipients of a reported $250 Million over an 8 year period in their Partnership deal with Total). Sponsorships offer critical support for a spectrum of expenses, including travel costs, accommodation, equipment, and player salaries. The injection of financial resources ensures that participating teams can navigate the challenges of the tournament with stability and focus. For instance, the Football Association of Malawi withdrew from the AFCON 2019 qualifiers due to a lack of government funding after local companies withdrew their support. The Zimbabwe Football Association faced significant debt, reaching US$8 million by the end of 2017. A viable sponsorship for a commercial partner could have prevented that debacle.

Moreover, associating with a prestigious event like AFCON provides sponsors with invaluable brand exposure. With millions of viewers tuning in to witness the matches, sponsors gain the opportunity to reach a broad and diverse audience, significantly enhancing their brand visibility and recognition. The symbiotic relationship between teams and sponsors extends beyond the tournament, often evolving into long-term partnerships. These partnerships not only offer ongoing support and resources but also open avenues for potential collaborations and business opportunities.

However, Beyond the scope of sponsorships, AFCON holds substantial financial incentives for the participating teams. The eight-year sponsorship deal between Total and CAF, reportedly valued at about US$250 million, underscores the immense financial stakes involved. Winning teams receive significant prize money, with the champion of the 31st Africa Cup of Nations in 2017 pocketing US$4 million, a notable increase from the US$1.5 million awarded to the 2015 champions. The winners of the 2024 AFCON are expected to pocket at least US$7 million in prize money as Dr Patrice Motsepe, the President of CAF recently announced an increase of the total prize money for the TotalEnergies AFCON Cameroon 2021 from $24.8 million to $26.65 million. In furtherance to the $3 Million increase in the prize money of winners, the first Runners-up are expected to pocket at least $4 Million in Cash prizes and Each of the two Semi-finalists will receive $2.5 Million, and each of the four Quarter-finalists, $1.3 Million

However, to take a look at the current financial landscape of African Football, A Harvard Kennedy School paper in 2017 shed light on the financial state of the Ball Business in Africa, revealing that the combined turnover of all Africa’s football clubs was below US$400 million, a stark contrast to the individual turnovers of Europe’s top 10 clubs. The opacity of  Financial data for many African clubs further complicates assessing the full economic value of football on the continent.

In contrast, CAF’s audited financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2017, reported disposable income of US$24.2 million. However, after deducting expenses and finance costs, the total comprehensive income amounted to just US$892,000. A comparative glimpse at the English Football Association’s turnover of £376 million (US$490 million) in the year ending July 31, 2018, underscores the gulf of difference in the financial dynamics at play.

The numbers posited by CAF are a far cry from what obtains in Europe, but there are signs of growth in the African Football space, and the numbers that CAF boasts of can hardly be rivalled by any other continent in the world. This is proof that the African Football space is a fertile ground for commercialization and the future holds a lot of promise for it. 

The Economic Impact of AFCON: The Host Nation’s Perspective

When it comes to hosting the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the impact on the host nation’s economy is profound and multifaceted. This prestigious tournament, attracting millions of football fans from across the continent and beyond, catalyzes various economic benefits, with Egypt’s experience during the AFCON 2019 providing a compelling example.

Hosting AFCON presents a unique opportunity for the host nation to showcase its culture, hospitality, and attractions to a global audience. As football enthusiasts flock to the country, there is a substantial boost in tourism. This influx of visitors not only leads to increased revenue for hotels, restaurants, and local businesses but also generates job opportunities in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

Classic display of Tourism at AFCON 2019 in Egypt(Source: Vanguard News)

In preparation for hosting AFCON, the host nation typically invests heavily in infrastructure development. This includes upgrading stadiums, airports, transportation systems, and accommodation facilities. These improvements not only enhance the tournament experience but also leave a lasting legacy for the host nation, attracting further investments and fostering economic growth in the long term.

The tournament also opens doors to lucrative sponsorship and advertising opportunities for the host nation. Companies seeking to reach a large and diverse audience eagerly leverage AFCON to promote their brands. Whether through AFCON ball business or other sectors, businesses can collaborate with event organizers to create partnerships that benefit both parties financially.

Moreover, hosting AFCON creates employment opportunities across various sectors, including event management, security, hospitality, transportation, and retail. The influx of visitors stimulates demand for goods and services, leading to an increase in employment opportunities for the local population.

Beyond the immediate economic impact, AFCON leaves a lasting social and cultural legacy in the host nation. The tournament fosters a sense of national pride and unity among the local population while promoting cultural exchange and understanding. This legacy has the potential to attract further investment, tourism, and sporting events in the future.

Examining Egypt’s experience during AFCON 2019, where six stadiums in five different cities were utilized, provides insights into the potential economic windfall. The tournament significantly boosted Egypt’s tourism sector, with revenue doubling to US$7.6 billion in 2017 from US$3.8 billion in 2016. The multiplier effect on Egypt’s GDP, standing at US$250 billion, according to the IMF, underscores the substantial and positive economic consequences of hosting the AFCON.

The economic benefits of hosting AFCON are undeniable, the case of Egypt exemplifies the tremendous potential for host countries. From tourism and infrastructure development to job creation and cultural legacy, AFCON serves as a powerful driver of economic growth.

European Clubs’ Perspective

At least forty players from the English Premier League may leave their clubs in January to participate in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast. The Premier League predicts that these players, representing 13 countries, will be absent from January 13 to February 11, 2024.  The Premier League stated that For the last tournament in Cameroon in 2021, 34 players featured for 12 countries. The number could increase this year, but not all clubs may feel the impact.

Manchester City for one, have no players going for the Grand African Tournament. Liverpool also have only Egypt’s Mohammed Salah getting excused for the AFCON. Aston Villa are also one of the least teams affected by the tournament. On the flipside however, Nottingham Forest have Wily Boly, Ibrahim Sangare, Ola Aina, Moussa Niakhate, Cheikh Kouyate and Serge Aurier leaving for the tournament. Sheffield United will also be missing 5 of their players over the period that Tournament is expected to span.

Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah Representing the Pharaohs of Egypt

Outside England, Napoli will have to make do without the services of Victor Osimhen and Zambo Anguissa, two of their most trusted hands who will also be leaving their clubs to obey the Clarion call. 

There is no doubt that African players are the pillars on which some European Clubs are built. There is also no doubt that these players will be sorely missed by their employers. Word on street has it that clubs are fighting behind the scenes to prevent their Players(or in this case-Assets) from leaving them mid-season and when the schedule is usually at its heaviest while they are being paid to represent the club. Some top European Clubs could be expected to play about 8 matches in Januray and another 8 in February. Considering the fact that this period is one of the most defining periods of the season, Clubs would like to have their best legs around. Unfortunately, they will not. 

Conclusion: The Hidden World of AFCON’s Business

As we’ve explored in this article, the business of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) goes far beyond the football matches themselves. From the host nation’s perspective, hosting AFCON brings a wide range of economic benefits. These benefits include increased tourism, improved infrastructure, lucrative sponsorship and advertising opportunities, job creation, and a lasting social and cultural legacy.

While hosting AFCON does come with its expenses, the financial advantages far outweigh the costs. The tournament provides a unique platform for host nations to showcase their capabilities on an international stage and attract global attention. The influx of tourists and investments during AFCON can have a long-lasting positive impact on the host nation’s economy.

The business of AFCON is a complex and multifaceted world, with various stakeholders and opportunities for growth. Aspiring host nations should carefully consider the financial implications and potential benefits before making the decision to host this prestigious tournament. AFCON has proven to be a lucrative venture for many countries, and with proper planning and execution, it can be a game-changer for the host nation’s economy.

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