The African Nations Cup set for expansion and mid-year switch
Posted: 19 July 2017 Time: 13:09
The African Nations Cup finals tournament is set to be expanded to 24 teams and moved to dates in June and July.
However, it will still be contested every two years after recommendations at a symposium in Morocco on Wednesday.
The decision must still be ratified by the Confederation of African Football’s executive committee but that could come as early as Thursday when they meet in Rabat.
The recommendations were made after a workshop on the future of the tournament, which included much of CAF’s leadership, and the decision is expected to be rubber-stamped.
The timing of the Nations Cup finals has been a contentious issue previously as it was played in January, in the middle of the league season in Europe. The majority of Nations Cup players come from European clubs and are increasingly drawn into a difficult club versus country tug-of-war.
The increase in teams follows the expansion of the European Championship last year, which African observers said had been a success.
“From a sporting perspective, it will allow more opportunity for footballers across the continent. It will increase revenue for CAF and we can triple our income. It will also force more infrastructure development,” said Amaju Pinnock, the Nigerian Football Federation president, who is also a CAF executive committee member.
But the tournament will not be played every four years as is the case in Europe because its revenue remains a cornerstone of CAF’s income and provides much needed competitive matches in the qualifying competition for smaller African associations, whose limited finances means they rely heavily on state support which, across Africa is readily given for official competition as opposed to friendly internationals.
The symposium also recommended much stricter standards on stadia for the finals and said future hosts would have to prove they had the necessary infrastructure, particularly high quality pitches and hotels for teams as these are problems that have bedeviled previous Nations Cup finals.
The proposal to raise the finals to 24 teams did prompt some opposition at the symposium on Wednesday.
“This will restrict to just a handful the number of African countries who are able to host future Nations Cup,” said former Cameroon goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell, one of over 200 African football personalities at the symposium.