Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Stalemate navigated

The recent impasse between Ahli and the Sports Ministry has definitively been broken, but the ongoing confrontation between the two has not yet seen its final chapter. Inas Mazhar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Scarcely two days had passed since being entrusted with the task of finding a settlement to the ongoing sweltering dispute concerning the broadcasting rights of football matches by the prime minister and Youth Minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz had succeeded at bringing all parties to the dispute together and arriving at a compromise among the Ahli Club, the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) and the Ministry of Sports.

After weeks of intransigence and heated debate on all sides, Ahli’s sudden and swift propensity to reach an agreement astounded those following the case since its start. Ahli had agreed to join the rest of the clubs that form the Clubs’ Committee, the body responsible for managing clubs’ affairs. According to the new arrangement, in recognition of Ahli’s position as the most popular club in the national competition, the club would be compensated through a larger percentage of whatever accrued revenue. To do so, the ERTU sold its broadcasting rights of the league matches to the newly formed Satellite Channels League for EGP80 million, which is EGP10 million more than the previous deal EFA had.

Despite selling the rights to the Satellite Channels League, ERTU Chairman Essam Al-Amir confirmed that since the ERTU is still the main holder of the broadcasting signal, matches will also be shown live on Egyptian TV channels. “The deal includes all matches of the 2013-2014 season, including Ahli’s local and African matches, ” Al-Amir said, putting an end to rumours that the settlement did not encompass Ahli matches. On Monday, Egyptian football fans followed five live matches on state TV and seven other private Egyptian satellite channels.

Even though the agreement will see Ahli recompensed, the compensation figure would be much less than what they would have received under the terms of the previous deal agreed with a marketing company. According to the new bargain, Ahli’s revenues will be in the neighbourhood of EGP26 million, whereas they would have earned almost EGP41 million had they gone ahead with the earlier offer. Pundits think there is a valid reason why Ahli has accepted such a deal, when it has been suffering from the same financial crunch as all the other clubs.

It is believed that it is Ahli’s way to retaliate from Sports Minister Taher Abu Zeid and coerce him to resign. Not to undervalue the efforts of the youth minister as a skilled negotiator who has excellent connections with all parties involved, but the scenario proceeded as follows: the prime minister delegated Abdel-Aziz to solve the issue; both Abu Zeid and his media consultant Magdi Kamel disappeared and switched off their mobile phones and no comment was received from the Ministry of Sports. Rumours surfaced that Abu Zeid might resign or be sacked and that he was losing points in the cabinet while Abdel-Aziz was climbing to the peak and was preparing to take over.

Meanwhile, the active youth minister reacted quickly. He did not call the disputed sides and ask them to meet in his office, thereby squandering additional time in meetings with questionable results. Known to be a down-to-earth man, Abdel-Aziz contacted all parties, visiting each separately: the ERTU, the EFA and, most importantly, the Ahli Club. He was warmly received and his efforts were appreciated as he brought several solutions to the table until a compromise was reached.

“It only took the minister of youth a few minutes to visit the Ahli Club premises and the house of the EFA to solve the issue. But it unveiled real intentions. It revealed that the dispute wasn’t all about the rights and the money and the percentage, but a personal quarrel, ” said sports critic Ahmed Saad of Al-Akhbar.

“This explains it all. Ahli is still on bad terms with the sports minister. They agreed to the solutions of the youth minister first to embarrass Abu Zeid and to show that he was unable to solve the case and therefore unable to run Egyptian sports in general. Secondly, they wanted to support the youth minister and raise his profile in the cabinet as a backing for him to take over as minister of both youth and sports,” Saad opined.

“Ahli is contradicting itself. They keep announcing that they refuse government intervention from the minister of sports according to FIFA rules, yet they agree to the intervention of the minister of youth, ” Saad marvelled.

Now the case has finally and definitely been closed, at least for this season. As football lovers enjoy watching the league matches live everywhere, they will still be vigilantas to the outcome of another attention-grabbing match: Abu Zeid vs Abdel-Aziz. Who wins?

According to sources from the Youth Ministry, Abdel-Aziz is not interested in becoming further involved in sports issues, saying the reason he accepted this mission was because he was delegated by the prime minister. Meanwhile, the sports minister has resurfaced saying he would not resign. Abu Zeid told Al-Ahram that he was aware of the youth minister’s delegation and that he carries no hard feelings towards anyone, insisting that the agreement reached is along the lines of what he had called for from the beginning, that all clubs should join in the broadcasting rights committee, including Ahli.

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