In moves to alleviate the fortunes of African football and its footballers, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced that it is launching a brand new prestigious club tournament christened the African Super League, and it has tentatively been set for August 2023, running from May to August. The novel Super League concept — at least in African sporting contexts — has been lauded as the panacea to perennial problems that plague the progress of the sport on the continent, as it will bring "prosperity" and "new visibility" to African football.
The plan to launch an African Super League has been among CAF's top agendas with regards to the development of African football; CAF has entertained the idea of such an elite tournament since February 2020, at the behest of FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
A total of $100 million will be set aside as the tournament's prize money, with the winner projected to walk away with approximately $11.6 million. The African Super League (which according to Reuters may later be renamed as the African Football League) will feature 24 [yet unnamed] clubs from 16 countries as they battle it out for the lucrative prize money.
However, the certainty of the tournament is still sketchy as final details about the whole structure, operation, and funding have not yet been availed.
The Super League, which is being dubbed a "pan-African tournament", will bring investments and rewards (in the form of "sponsorships and revenue returns") at a scale and magnitude that has never been witnessed in Africa, as per the assurances of CAF president Patrice Motsepe.
He remarked that the tournament will make ample room for participating teams to match the wages offered by European clubs, hence, dissuading African footballers from leaving the continent.
The vision, according to Motsepe's word, is to empower African teams with the unmatched ability to retain the very best of their African talent.
Currently, the prize money for CAF Champions League winners stands at $2.5 million. The African Super League will — through earnings via a "big appetite from investors" — see a solidarity fund being established that will result in each of the 54 member associations of CAF receiving $1 million annually.
Addressing the press in Arusha, Tanzania, on CAF's latest ambitious event, the Super League, Motsepe brimmed with a newfound optimism for African football:
The CAF Executive Committee (EXCO) took a decision to launch the CAF Africa Super League in August 2022. This League will officially kick off in August 2023.
The African Super League represents the very best on the continent and we have seen a big appetite from investors to be involved in this project. The intention is for kick-off in August 2023, and over the next few months, there will be a process of engagement with various stakeholders.
We will also explain to domestic competitions how this will affect their fixtures. At the end of the day, the future of club football is based on commercial competitiveness. The face of African football will never be the same again.
Gianni Infantino, FIFA's president, added his supporting remarks in exaltation of the Super League concept to be implemented in Africa — a concept he attempted to push in Europe only to be met with fierce opposition, thus being compelled to shelve it.
There is a huge will to invest in a project like this, which will give a new visibility to African football. The growth of African club and national team football contributes to the growth of world football. The competition will benefit every country, not just with the solidarity payment, but the exposure to African football.
The CAF African Super League has worked hard to keep its name safe from the flop associated with Europe's doomed version of the Super League, which was heavily criticized for being excessively elitist and exclusionary.
Whereas the European Super League was bent on maintaining the elite status of the big clubs in Europe by creating a league without relegation, with no chances for outside teams to be included — a "closed shop" — the African Super League will have an "element" of promotion-relegation. 16 countries will be represented, but countries cannot have more than three participants at a tournament, which will lessen the chances of smaller clubs to enter the League.
Teams "will play a group competition first, divided into three groups of eight clubs, before the majority of clubs move onto an American-style playoff system, including wild card berths."