Fouzi Lekjaa, the 49-year-old Director of Nationwide Finances in Morocco’s Ministry of Finance, wears a number of necessary soccer hats. He’s President of the Royal Moroccan Soccer Federation (FRMF) and second Vice-President of the Confederation of African Soccer (CAF), in addition to being the Chairman of CAF’s Finance Committee. In an unique interview Lekjaa spoke to Osasu Obayiuwana
Considered probably the most highly effective males in African soccer, for the reason that election of Madagascar’s Ahmad to the CAF Presidency in March 2017, Lekjaa has sharply divided opinion inside African soccer circles.
Many accuse him of wielding undue affect in CAF’s affairs, claiming that Lekjaa has used his closeness to Ahmad to push his private and political agenda for Morocco.
“What do I management in African soccer? All we, as Morocco, wish to do is to assist African soccer develop,” Lekjaa says in response to the allegations.
“Earlier than I got here to CAF, a Moroccan, Hicham Amrani, was Secretary-Basic. Was I liable for that?” he asks.
InsideWorldFootball’s Osasu Obayiuwana was in Morocco, on the invitation of the FRMF, the place he had a 90-minute interview with Lekjaa, overlaying the burning points within the African recreation, which included the present monetary state of CAF, in addition to its latest resolution to unilaterally break its billion-dollar advertising and marketing contract with French firm Lagardere Sports activities…
Osasu Obayiuwana: I wish to begin by asking you a few monetary report that you just submitted to your colleagues on the CAF govt committee final 12 months. You expressed your considerations concerning the deficit spending (which was estimated at -$6 million for 2019). You warned that if one of these expenditure continued for ten years, the deficit could be -$120 million, which may result in chapter. What has occurred at CAF, because you introduced this report back to your colleagues?
Fouzi Lekjaa: Everybody is aware of what CAF has completed for the final 30 years, beneath the course of Mr. Issa Hayatou. Aside from the Africa Cup of Nations and the Champions League, there is no such thing as a different supply of revenue for CAF. In these circumstances, it’s regular to have a degrading monetary state of affairs. The monetary drawback involving Issa Hayatou and Hicham Amrani, which led to the $30 million judgment from the Egyptian court docket, has left us pondering of easy methods to get new sources of revenue. Now we have to work collectively, to have higher improvement and a greater future, for the generations but to return.
OO: When Mr. Ahmad took over CAF in March 2017, the then Monetary Director of CAF, Mohamed El-Sherei, instructed me that CAF had about $138 million in its account. However simply two years later, the money stability of CAF, earlier than he was sacked, went all the way down to $103 million. So, inside a span of two years, the money stability was down by $35 million. What’s your rationalization for this, because the chair of CAF’s Finance Committee? And what’s the present state of CAF’s checking account?
FL: In finance, we at all times appear to have confusion over what’s the money reserve of an organisation and what’s its money stability on the finish of the 12 months. The monetary state of affairs has been degrading since 2017. CAF gave annual grants of $100,000 per federation, which has now been elevated to $200,000, plus different grants for youth championships. All these noble actions have affected the monetary state of affairs of CAF. And I’ve already talked about the problem of Mr. Hayatou and Hicham Amrani. A very powerful factor is the money stability and never the circulate of cash. Now we have to think twice and search for new alternatives of revenue.
OO: What’s the money stability of CAF now? As at June 2019, I used to be instructed that it’s $103 million. However that was earlier than the bills of the Cup of Nations in Egypt…
FL: I don’t know the precise quantity however it’s greater than $110 million. However the reserve in the intervening time isn’t that necessary, as a result of there’s different revenue that may come, like $40 million for instance, however we may pay $50 million afterwards. What’s most necessary is the stability on the finish of the 12 months.
OO: When the current CAF govt committee took over in March 2017, there was no assembly of CAF’s Finance Committee for 18 months. Because the chairman of the finance committee, are you able to clarify why this was the case?
FL: Final 12 months, we had a gathering simply earlier than the CAF Basic Meeting. We additionally had two conferences, one in Rabat and one other one in Cairo. We had three conferences in two months, in order that we may have an settlement concerning the CAF funds. We additionally had a gathering with the audit committee, in order that the accounts may be validated. These befell between June and August 2019.
OO: However why was there no assembly of the CAF Finance Committee for the primary 18 months of this CAF administration?
FL: This isn’t an operational fee. This fee isn’t going to have conferences on a regular basis, as a result of it isn’t about CAF’s day-to-day operations however about its normal monetary course…
OO: I spoke to the previous Director of Finance in CAF. He instructed me that due to your tasks within the Moroccan authorities (the place he’s in command of nationwide funds issues) you didn’t have sufficient time to cope with the tasks that include your place as chair of CAF’s Finance Committee. What’s your response to this?
FL: The viewpoint of an individual that’s now not within the make use of of CAF doesn’t rely. When he was in cost, he had the chance to say all of this stuff when he was there. He didn’t. I used to be at his disposal and at all times answered his emails and cellphone calls. It’s true that I’m fairly occupied (in Morocco) however I used to be at all times out there to him. I by no means did not reply correspondence inside 24 hours. If there’s any query that the previous monetary director requested me and I did not reply it, I wish to know what that’s. After I wished issues to go quicker, this man was at all times blocking issues.
OO: You’re the nationwide director of funds in Morocco. Would it not be regular in Morocco for a brand new funds for the nation to be handed, with out closing the books on the account of the earlier monetary 12 months? But, for 2 years in CAF, there aren’t any audited accounts correctly introduced to the congress. And regardless of that, a funds was authorized for the 2019/2020 monetary 12 months.
Additionally, on the final Basic Meeting in Cairo, the federations didn’t get the audited accounts till they had been on the congress ground. However beneath CAF legal guidelines, they’re imagined to obtain the audited accounts a minimal of 1 month prematurely.
FL: For 2018/2019, the accounts had been correctly ready…
OO: And for 2017/2018?
FL: The identical factor… It’s true that the accounts are imagined to be despatched to the nationwide associations a month earlier than the Basic Meeting. We promise to make sure that for the following Abnormal Basic Meeting will probably be completed two months earlier than, in order that the general public can study the small print and a correct debate may be had concerning the figures. Transparency is essential for me, as a result of that is what we emphasise, right here in Morocco.
OO: Do you perceive that this requirement, for the federations to have the audited accounts, one month earlier than the Abnormal Basic Meeting, is a should, beneath CAF’s legal guidelines? It isn’t a ‘possibly’ matter. So, whenever you don’t do that, you might be contravening CAF’s legislation, for which there’s a authorized implication…
FL: I agree with you. However there was a sure method of working in CAF for the final 30 years and it is extremely tough for issues to be modified. However I promised, in entrance of the Basic Meeting, that the accounts will probably be with them two months prematurely. An enormous modification, in CAF’s tradition, will happen.
OO: Over the last congress in Cairo, your colleague from Zambia, Mr. Andrew Kamanga, stood up and protested towards the best way that the accounts had been introduced to the Basic Meeting. The Zambia FA President is a Chartered Accountant and a monetary skilled, who can also be a member of the FIFA Audit and Compliance Committee. He is aware of a little bit bit about finance. What do you need to say concerning the remarks that he made on the congress ground?
FL: I agree with Mr. Kamanga’s assertion. However altering the truth of CAF is tough. And it was the truth for 40 years… To cease the monetary report on the finish of April, to have it prepared for June, would require a deep modification to the monetary practices of CAF. With the outdated system, they had been validating the funds seven or eight months after the top of an audit. It’s a large modification that we’d like…
OO: A direct query. Do you wish to turn into CAF President in 2021?
FL: No. My ambition remains to be the identical, which is to take part, humbly, within the improvement of African soccer. The distribution of positions doesn’t curiosity me.
It’s my ambition to work with you, with different individuals, to maneuver our soccer, to develop our soccer.
OO: Through the Beneath-17 African Championship in Tanzania, I’m conscious that you just had been very offended with a variety of issues that went on there, one being the age of some gamers that includes at that championship. You had been fairly crucial of CAF in public. As the threerd vice-president of CAF, at the moment, individuals had been stunned that you possibly can be publicly crucial of an organisation of which you’re a key member…
FL: I didn’t criticize the organisation in public. However internally, I talked concerning the want for the foundations of this competitors to be revered, in relation to the ages of the gamers that take part. If we don’t respect the age classes, we’re killing and breaking the method of improvement in African soccer. It’s our duty to place in place processes that may be certain that the age limits are revered. I’m not saying that I’ve doubts about one federation. I’m simply saying that respecting age class competitions is an obligation.
I’ve submitted a proposal to CAF that we would like, at our new nationwide soccer centre, to have the well being amenities there out there to all of the African federations that want it, in order that we will transfer on. I’ve had a dialog with Mr. Senghor and Mr. Ahmad and they’re in settlement with what I’m saying, concerning our age competitions. We mentioned this at our govt committee assembly in Cairo in December.
OO: The large industrial subject in African soccer is the choice of CAF to unilaterally finish its 12-year contract with Lagardere Sports activities
From a industrial viewpoint, I actually don’t perceive the best way that CAF cancelled this contract. After the cancellation of this contract, it’s exhausting for followers of African soccer to observe CAF’s competitions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, as a result of SuperSport should not telecasting the matches. How can we have now a state of affairs the place the African Champions League and the Confederation Cup isn’t televised in so many international locations on the continent?
Was there not a greater method for CAF to have handled Lagardere? They mentioned that they negotiated a brand new cope with CAF, they thought that that they had an amended settlement, however impulsively, CAF determined to not signal this new settlement. What precisely is the issue?
In the mean time, there is no such thing as a agency industrial plan for CAF and this, certainly, isn’t a very good state of affairs…
FL: I wish to say that my federation was one of many few that didn’t wish to signal a contract with Lagardere in 2014. It isn’t regular for us to signal a contract for the size of time that was completed. It must be effectively negotiated and the social dimension must be on the centre of the challenge.
I believe we wanted to create a shock, by ending this contract, in an effort to create a greater industrial state of affairs for African soccer. We want extra revenue for the event of African soccer.
OO: Right here’s the issue… After unilaterally breaking the contract, Lagardere have taken CAF to the Worldwide Chamber of Commerce in Geneva, Switzerland, the place each events are topic to ongoing arbitral proceedings. Nobody is aware of what the results of this arbitration course of will probably be. What is going to occur if CAF loses? How will CAF be capable of afford to pay the monetary penalties? (Lagardere are reportedly suing for as much as $90 million in damages)
FL: Earlier than we took this resolution to finish this contract, we did a variety of authorized work, to take a look at all of the implications and the authorized dangers. I imagine that the ultimate state of affairs will probably be ten occasions higher than what we have now now. We ought to be constructive about a greater future.
OO: In addition to being a journalist, I’m a professional lawyer. So I perceive authorized textual content, contracts and procedures. The second you topic your self to a industrial arbitration, you don’t have any safety, regarding the end result. Does CAF realise that there’s a chance that this case may go towards it? What’s the plan if the arbitral resolution goes towards CAF?
FL: CAF has made some deep evaluation to have the peace of mind that issues will probably be in its favour, at this arbitration continuing. We by no means know what can occur however we are going to cope with it because the state of affairs presents itself. However the subject isn’t about slicing the contract with Lagardere. It’s about having a greater monetary state of affairs for CAF.
OO: If CAF decides to finish its cope with its industrial companion, it means it’s essential to have one other one lined up. There needs to be a proposal higher than the one you had with the earlier companion. What supply does CAF have on the desk now? What secures the monetary way forward for CAF?
FL: Now we have some choices on the desk and we’re in negotiations in the intervening time. When we have now a deal, CAF will make an announcement. What is evident is that CAF goes to be higher than what we have now had during the last 30 years.
OO: CAF sacked its Finance Director six months in the past. Why has CAF not employed a alternative?
FL: CAF goes by an evolution and we can not do every little thing now. We’re asking for transparency within the recruitment course of. Now we have requested for candidates and a few individuals have utilized. There have been some interviews completed and we must always have a brand new director earlier than the top of February.
OO: FIFA despatched Fatma Samoura, its Secretary-Basic, to remain in CAF for the final six months, as its Basic Delegate to the continent. She is coming to the top of the six-month stint on the finish of January. In your opinion, ought to she stay in Cairo? Does CAF nonetheless want FIFA’s intervention in its affairs? What is going to occur on February 1?
FL: To start with, the idea, and strategy, to the partnership with FIFA, ought to be clear to all who need African soccer to develop. The co-operation with FIFA is a chance that CAF ought to take. Collaboration between FIFA, CAF and different confederations is totally regular and a everlasting institutional course of. FIFA is bringing consultants to assist and collaborate with us. It is a chance for Africa. We should always reap the benefits of this chance, in order that we will transfer on rapidly and certainly, in order that we may be on the high of world soccer. The collaboration with FIFA isn’t a query of timing, however that of evolution.
OO: Maintain on… The settlement was for her to remain for six months. By now, CAF ought to know whether or not they need Madam Samoura to stay in Cairo or not. In response to CAF, you invited FIFA – and by extension, her – to be concerned in your day by day affairs. What I wish to know is whether or not this collaboration going to proceed on February 1?
FL: After all, it was CAF that invited Fatma Samoura. And it’s CAF that may resolve whether or not she is going to keep or not. However for me – and I believe it’s the case for different members of the manager committee – cooperation with FIFA must be maintained and strengthened…
OO: I would like a direct reply to my query…
FL: This partnership ought to proceed and turn into structural…
OO: So, so far as you might be involved, she ought to keep on?
FL: A very powerful factor for me is the institutional relationship. As to the individual, I’m not the one to resolve…
OO: It’s the resolution of the Government Committee
FL: There will probably be a gathering of the CAF Government Committee (now scheduled to happen on February 2, at Morocco’s new Nationwide Soccer Technical Centre in Maamoura) and we are going to resolve…
OO: However the assembly of the manager committee is in February and Madam Samoura’s tenure ends on January 31. So, what occurs?
FL: We are going to meet to take a call. After we had been in Hurghada (for the 2019 CAF Awards), the CAF President consulted us about once we ought to meet to take this resolution.
OO: Lots of people have the opinion that FIFA is sort of a colonial grasp in Africa, telling CAF what to do. It’s the opinion of many who the CAF President and members of the manager committee now not have management over the organisation and that FIFA controls every little thing. What do you need to say, in response to this?
FL: Those that have this perception are improper. It’s removed from the truth. FIFA helps us and collaborating with us, so we will obtain our strategic goals. The manager committee and the administration are liable for CAF’s affairs… There is no such thing as a subject with the interior affairs of CAF. FIFA will assist us to have higher monetary and authorized processes, in addition to develop its infrastructure. We have to reap the benefits of this event to develop. We don’t assist by having one of these sterile debate.
OO: The date for the Cup of Nations event was moved from January/February to June/July, for the final event in Egypt. CAF instructed us they wish to make this shift everlasting. However the 2021 event, in Cameroon, goes again to January/February. And for the reason that weather conditions in Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea are the identical as in Cameroon, it means the following three AFCONs will probably be held in January/February. So, what was the purpose in shifting the date?
FL: After we made the choice to maneuver the event to June/July, it’s due to the African gamers who play exterior of Africa and it was a chance for them to play. However we have now by no means mentioned that will probably be a everlasting resolution… The factor that is essential for us is that the nation that’s to organise the AFCON organises it in the very best situations attainable. We have to consider easy methods to have a greater event.
If Cameroon needs to organise the AFCON in January/February, as a result of it’s higher than organising it in June/July, it’s okay. Our job is to assist them organise the event in the absolute best situations. We should always not concentrate on the dates. We should always concentrate on the truth that we have to have the very best competitors attainable for the followers, for the gamers, for the picture of African soccer
OO: For the primary time within the historical past of African soccer, the Champions’ League last will probably be performed as a single recreation, at a impartial venue. What plans have been made, to make sure that the brand new format will go effectively?
FL: I can guarantee you that this recreation will probably be performed in the very best situations. Now we have opened bids for the staging of the competitors. What’s much more necessary is the general reform of the competitions, in order that we will have a greater stage of revenue and a greater picture for them.
On the subject of the plans of FIFA President Gianni Infantino, for an African Tremendous-League, I’m fully in assist of it. It is a chance for the African golf equipment to develop and for a few of them to be amongst the highest ten golf equipment on this planet. On this state of affairs, the very best African gamers will be capable of keep in Africa and never have gamers in our high leagues which might be solely good for second division soccer in Belgium or Bulgaria.
OO: What’s the state of affairs with the Ladies’s Africa Cup of Nations? There is no such thing as a host and this event is to be staged this 12 months. This can be a very disturbing state of affairs…
FL: We are going to appropriate the state of affairs, regarding this. Ladies’s soccer is one thing that is essential for me. It is rather necessary in Africa. We have to develop our girls gamers.
OO: What occurred over the past Confederation Cup last in Alexandria, between RS Berkane, your hometown membership and Zamalek, the place you had been accused of assaulting Ethiopian Referee Bamlak Tessema? That may be a very severe cost…
FL: What occurred between Berkane and Zamalek was a celebration of soccer. It was through the Ramadan interval and we shared meals collectively. We misplaced on penalties. I used to be one of many first individuals to go all the way down to the pitch, handy over the trophy to Mortada Mansour, the Zamalek President. I used to be shocked that I used to be accused of assaulting the referee. I by no means did something like that
OO: However the Ethiopian Soccer Federation despatched an official criticism about your behaviour, which led to a CAF Disciplinary Committee listening to. Why did they do this?
FL: I had a gathering, in Rabat, with the Ethiopian Soccer Federation President, and we mentioned this. I didn’t perceive why they lodged the criticism, as a result of I used to be the primary to provide the medal to the referee. There was clearly some confusion…
OO: So, you might be categorically denying doing such a factor?
FL: I’ve the best regard for referees and would by no means do such a factor. In Morocco, I’ve at all times insisted that referees be handled with the utmost respect.
OO: Thanks very a lot for answering my questions. I wish to provide the last phrase…
FL: To start with, I thanks for accepting my invitation to go to our nation, for the time you may have taken, to see what we’re doing for soccer right here… Although I’m in administration and also you’re a journalist, I imagine we share the identical goal, which is to see the fast improvement of African soccer. You like Africa and you like soccer. We will have completely different factors of view however the general goal remains to be the identical. I imagine the longer term will probably be higher than the previous.
Osasu Obayiuwana, a lawyer and BBC broadcaster, is without doubt one of the world’s main journalists on African soccer. Observe Osasu on Twitter @osasuo