Starting on Tuesday in Rabat, stakeholders from across the sport, including an array of former stars like Abedi Pele, Austin Okocha and Samuel Eto’o, have been invited to deliberate over the future of the tournament and others aspects of the African game.
New Confederation of African Football president Ahmad promised a blanket review when he successfully challenged long-standing leader Issa Hayatou for the top job in African football in March.
Ahmad, who uses only a single name, also wants to review rules on hosting the finals, which are proving increasingly prohibitive and reducing the number of potential candidates.
He has already suggested co-hosting which would allow CAF to consider proposals to increase the size of teams at the finals to 24 – almost half the organisation’s membership. The frequency of the tournament would also be reviewed although there seems little appetite to change it from every two years to every four years.
Hosting the tournament every two years in January means the leading players, drawn increasingly from clubs in major European leagues, face a difficult tug of war for their services, caught between duty for their national team and the clubs that employ them.
Ahead of this year’s tournament in Gabon there were an unprecedented number of players who turned down call-ups to stay with their clubs. Those numbers are expected to rise if the next finals in Cameroon are hosted in January 2019 rather than a more convenient mid-year slot.
Hayatou had persistently refused to entertain any change because he did not want to be seen to be buckling to pressure from European clubs. He blamed inclement weather patterns in Africa for not holding the Nations Cup in mid-year, but this argument was forgotten when only African countries bid to host the 2010 World Cup.
The Rabat symposium will also look at the annual African club competitions, which this year had the number of clubs involved in the group stages doubled to 16.
Each African country has been invited to send its football association president, general secretary and national coach.