A few weeks ago the news emerged about the rift between global game publishing giant Electronic Arts, EA and the International football governing body, FIFA. EA expressed the intention of not renewing its licensing agreement with FIFA for subsequent editions of its hugely popular FIFA game titles when the current deal expires in 2022.
There were mixed reactions to this for and against this move as some people felt like its competing brand eFootball PES by Konami, the title (whatever name it would be now) would suffer a lack of identity which is what its being attributed to FIFA has brought for it in the last 2 decades or so. Others however felt that EA had built trust and pedigree enough to stand on its own without the FIFA preface and that people will play the game anyway as long as the quality and experience remain the same.
From the ongoing debate for and against the EA – FIFA relationship emerged the staggering report just last week that the reason for the soured relationship which has earned both parties fame and fortune is FIFA’s demand of a whopping $1,000,000,000 (yes you read right One Billion US dollars) as licensing fees over each 4-year World Cup cycle and EA’s additional demand of the right to use the FIFA name for new ventures like video game tournaments and non-fungible tokens (NFT).
With deal looking like it’s off (though personally I hope not), EA seems to be in a good place with over 300 other licensing agreements they have with UEFA (which operates the massively popular UEFA Champions League), top teams (like Manchester United) and players.
That being said, the mention of Europe’s football governing body, UEFA struck a light bulb moment for me and the big question of whether Africa’s football governing body, CAF are making moves to tap into the growth of Esports globally and especially as the football titles (FIFA and eFootball PES) have a massive traction on the continent.
If UEFA can cut a deal with EA, what stops CAF from doing same? Our national teams and the flagship football tournament, the Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON have continued to enjoy loads of following from fans from all parts of the continent but unfortunately the FIFA game title does not even regard this enough to put the teams in the game (Nigeria’s Super Eagles for one keep being excluded strangely). Same can be said about the CAF Champions League and the potential of throwing that into the negotiations too if you understand the cult following of teams like Zamalek, Al Ahly, Raja Casablanca, Orlando Pirates, Enyimba, TP Mazembe, ASEC Mimosa, Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns to mention a few.
Though the National Federations, Football Clubs and players on the continent may not know how to unlock this potential goldmine, CAF can take the lead on this with a practical Esports strategy that will help access the opportunities for the stakeholders and of course the fans who for all it is worth will be delighted to play the games using their favourite teams and players on their PC, Consoles or mobile. A befitting legacy indeed for the Patrice Motsepe-led Board’s era.
The EA – FIFA saga may just be a blessing in disguise but can CAF work this to its advantage commercially and as a tool for imparting and engaging the youths in Africa? Just imagine a CAF netting a quarter of the FIFA licensing agreement over every AFCON cycle, a spinoff of an eAFCON and other Esports activations… only time and a few thinking minds will tell.
Written by: ‘Sayo Owolabi is the Secretary General of the Africa Esports Development Federation (AEDF), created by the Global Esports Federation (GEF) in September, 2021 to support the growth and development of the African Esports ecosystem in line with its values. He is also the Founder/CEO of Africa’s leading full service Esports organization, the Lagos Esports Forum (LESF).