AFC launches territory-by-territory TV rights sales in 10 Mena countries

Bahrain’s forward Abdulla Yusuf Helal during 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Iran

The Asian Football Confederation has initiated a territory-by-territory broadcast rights sales process in 10 countries across the Middle East.

The Request for Proposals (RFP) for the forthcoming rights cycle covers Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Syria and Yemen.

The rights on offer include the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, which will take place in China, and the AFC’s final-round qualifying for the 2022 Fifa World Cup. Rights to the AFC Champions League, AFC Cup and the 2022 AFC Women’s Asia Cup are also included, along with men’s and women’s age-grade and futsal tournaments.

Hong Kong-based DDMC Fortis is the exclusive commercial agency of the AFC for the 2021-24 and 2025-28 and rights cycles. However, the agency agreement excluded the media rights in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The RFP documents will be available on June 16 and broadcasters and media companies have been handed a bid submission deadline of June 30.

Separate rights sales processes are to be conducted in each territory. The rights sales processes in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are already underway and a separate process will be undertaken in Iran.

The AFC courted controversy last year by carving out the rights in Saudi Arabia.

This came after beIN Media Group, the Qatar-based pay-television broadcaster, said it was taking legal action against the AFC after Saudi Arabia was removed from its exclusive rights deal spanning the Middle East and North Africa. The broadcaster has vehemently protested against Saudi Arabia’s role in the beoutQ piracy operation with the pirate service virtually reproducing beIN’s sports programming in its entirety.

At the time, beIN Media Group chief executive officer Yousef Al-Obaidly said: “The AFC’s decision is a material breach of our multi-million-dollar regional broadcast agreement and we will immediately be launching a major international dispute to recover damages and protect our position.”

On the RFP process, the AFC said today (Thursday): “The RFP notes that the AFC media rights partner will need to demonstrate state of the art broadcasting, engaging and informative programming and creative as well as innovative media output which showcases the competitions and encourages their continued growth – both at national and club level.

“The highest possible engagement with true football fans is crucial in realising the AFC’s ambition of helping their member associations – as well as their broadcast partner – by delivering competition development and generating revenue – which will be invested back into the game.”

The RFP notice states that the process is open to broadcasters and media companies who are “lawfully entitled to operate television services and/or distribute audiovisual content in the relevant territory; and have the capability and relevant authorisations to provide first-class host broadcast production services and deliver the live television feed of all AFC matches taking place in the relevant territory”.