Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Sports at stake

Broadcasting rights and government intervention are problems plaguing officials, Inas Mazhar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Two main issues are dominating the Egyptian sports scene these days: the broadcasting rights of the national football league and the dispute between the National Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Sports.
The past few days have seen these two main issues come to the fore. There will be a break in the action as the fifth round of the national league competition which started three weeks ago has been suspended in agreement between the Ministry of Interior and the Egyptian Football Association until a national constitutional referendum is voted on. Security forces would be busy securing the procedures of the referendum.
The main issue concerns the agreement signed between the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) and the Egyptian Radio Television Union (ERTU) last week in which the EFA sold the transmission signal to the ERTU for LE70 million. Accordingly, the ERTU became the sole rights holder to broadcast live all the league matches of all 22 participating teams in the national competition.
However, defending champion Ahli has rejected the deal and claims that the club is the owner of its broadcasting rights and that the EFA has no authority to sell its rights on behalf of somebody else. Ahli believes that it would gain more revenues if it is to sell its own rights. Accordingly, Ahli has refused to allow the ERTU to broadcast any of its matches. Ahli on Sunday announced it had sold its rights to a marketing company for LE41 million to broadcast its matches live. Club director Hassaan Masseoud announced that the club agreed to the deal after studying all legal regulations and that the club agreed with the marketing company to sell the broadcasting of the games to the ERTU “for the sake of the Egyptian fans”.
Ahli’s agreement with the marketing company brought criticism from other sides including the ERTU, EFA and the Ministry of Sports who said Ahli was selling its own rights outside the main umbrella. Ahli, on the other hand, is expected to complain to the authorities represented in the cabinet, the National Olympic Committee, the IOC and FIFA.
Ahli club board member Khaled Mortagi said that Ahli is being punished by all these parties because it protects its own rights and the rights of its general assembly. “We are aware that there are some other hidden reasons behind such threats against the club. We know they want to dissolve the board of directors especially after the IOC disagreed with the Ministry of Sports regarding governmental intervention within the Egyptian clubs and federations.” Mortagi said.
If the Ahli deal goes through the ERTU threatens to prevent the marketing company from the broadcasting signal so as not to be able to broadcast matches as it is the only owner of the signal. The ERTU claims that the deal is illegal, saying it had signed a contract with the EFA, the owner of the competition.
“If the ERTU insists, then we will use the CNG system which means that we can broadcast the matches after the end of the first half. Ahli will not allow ERTU cameras onto the pitch of Ahli home matches.” Mortagi wondered why the ERTU was opposing Ahli even though according to the regulations, they would still earn LE6 million from Ahli’s LE41 million contract based on a percentage of 15 per cent.
Nevertheless, it seems that this heated debate would continue and is heading to court.
The other issue concerns another dispute between the Ministry of Sports and its new sports laws and regulations which allow the governmental body to control Egyptian sports organisations, clubs and federations while perhaps overstepping the bounds of the general assemblies of these organisations. Despite an agreement with the IOC last November, observers say the Ministry of Sports continues to interfere in the issues and regulations of the clubs and federations.
On 26 November 2013 in Lausanne, the IOC met with senior representatives of the Egyptian Sports Ministry, the Egyptian Olympic Committee, the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) to review the current situation of the Olympic movement in Egypt vis-à-vis sports legislation, and to find a common understanding as to how sports organisations belonging to the Olympic movement in Egypt can be in a position to comply with both the basic principles of the movement (including the principle of autonomy) and the law of the land.
According to an IOC statement released by the IOC press office then, the meeting was extremely positive and greatly contributed to reaching mutual understanding and trust between the government authorities and the Olympic movement. The meeting concluded with the following points of agreement:
The sports law currently in force in Egypt (since 1975) needs to be updated and revised to make it fully compatible with the basic standards of the Olympic movement. As part of this revision process, the global situation of the sports clubs in Egypt will have to be reviewed and clarified. To this effect, the Sports Ministry has already launched a consultation phase involving the main constituents of the Olympic movement in Egypt (including in particular the Egyptian Olympic Committee and the national sports federations). In view of the transition period which Egypt is experiencing, a reasonable timeframe was established as follows: the new draft sports legislation should be completed within six months, and the whole process, including the formal adoption of the new sports legislation by the competent authorities in the country, should be completed within one year from now.
The statement added: “In the meantime, the government will not interfere in any manner whatsoever with the internal operations of the national sports federations and the sports clubs, and the current sports regulations standard statutes issued by the Sports Ministry will not be implemented. In particular, this will give  all national sports federations the possibility to establish their own statutes, get them adopted by their respective general assemblies and endorsed by the corresponding international federations.
“During this process, it was agreed that a tripartite commission, consisting of the Egyptian Sports Ministry, the IOC (representing the Olympic movement as a whole) and the Egyptian Olympic Committee (representing the Olympic movement in Egypt), will be established to supervise the implementation of the process and to address any specific issue which might arise during this period.”
The statement concluded that a letter would be sent shortly to the Egyptian government to ratify this agreement and establish the details of the process and that the IOC and all partners of the Olympic movement are hopeful that this meeting will pave the way for a fruitful cooperation with the government authorities in Egypt with full respect to the basic principles and rules which govern the Olympic movement. 
However, government intervention continues and the future of Egyptian sports is at stake as 16 sports federations are close to being suspended by their international federations. Accordingly, Hassan Mustafa, president of the International Handball Federation and council member of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) was sent to Egypt on behalf of the council to meet with Egyptian sports officials.
The meeting, which was held at the National Olympic Committee in Nasr City in Cairo, was attended by head of the NOC Khaled Zein, presidents and representatives of Egyptian summer federations and the media. Mustafa was keen to clarify that he was in Cairo on behalf of the president of the ASOIF Francesco Ricci Bitti and not because of a recent decision by Sports Minister Taher Abu Zeid who had sent documents to court concerning financial allegations of the Egyptian Handball Federation when Hassan was its president. The allegations concerned the World Handball Championship which Egypt hosted in 1999.
Mustafa read to the audience a letter by ASOIF Executive Director Andrew Ryan which officially delegated Hassan to speak on behalf of the ASOIF president and present the views of ASOIF at these meetings.
The letter said, “As an ASOIF council member, you are very familiar with the position of our organisation and its members regarding the importance of adhering to the Olympic charter and the current position of the IOC which protects the autonomy of the international federations and their member national bodies while respecting their rules.
“It is a matter of priority that further rapid progress is made in Egypt to normalise the sporting situation within the framework of each international federation’s regulations in the interests of the athletes and the national sports governing bodies.
“You have ASOIF’s full support in anything you can do to assist in progressing matters at your meetings with the Egyptian national sports federations/ associations during this week,” the letter said.
During the meeting, angry sports officials rejected what they claimed was the way the sports minister was dealing with them and how they believe his insistence to interfere in their rules will lead to the suspension of 16 Egyptian federations. The NOC president Zein and sports officials have pleaded with the prime minister and even the head of state to put an end to the dispute for the sake of Egyptian sports.
Mustafa promised to meet with top officials of state and also convey their messages to ASOIF. “Again, we confirm that we respect the government but still we require and support democracy in sports, independence of sports bodies and highlighting the role of the general assemblies of the sports federations. These principles should be applied and are not negotiable.”
 “I was shocked by the news that broke out suddenly about a case that took place almost 15 years ago when I was president of the Egyptian Handball Federation. There have been charges against the federation, but it was all cleared in 2009. But the way it was published in the media is libel and slander and puts me in a false light and I do not accept that,” Mustafa said.
Mustafa distributed to the audience a memo issued from the office of the prosecutor of Basel Stadt which cleared both Mustafa and the then treasurer of the International Handball Federation Roca Miguel concerning embezzlement and mismanagement to the detriment of the IHF. According to the memo, the case was closed due to absence or lack of evidence of an offense. The memo explained in details the results of the investigations regarding travelling expenses without receipt, payment concerning the world championship in Egypt in 1999 and loans to IHF staff members.

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