All You Need To Know About The African Football League

On Wednesday, 10 August 2022, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) launched the Africa Super League for the continent’s best football clubs. The launching took place at CAF’s 44th edition of the General Assembly which was held in Arusha, Tanzania.

The creation of the Africa Super League will transform football on the continent forever, according to CAF President, Patrice Motsepe.

To disassociate it from the negative connotations that followed the failed European Super League, the tournament has been named as the African Football League.

The tournament will begin in the 2023/24 season, with an overall prize fund of $100m (£81.9m) and the winner receiving $11.6m.

It was initially meant to include 24 elite African clubs with a promotion/relegation system, but has been scaled down to 8 teams for its inaugural campaign before returning to 24 teams in 2024/25.

The addition of the Super League now means Africa will have three continental club competitions; African Football League, African Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup.

In this article, FootballOrbit brings you all you need to know about the newly created African Football League.

What is the African Football League?

The African Football League will be an annual continental club football competition run by CAF, the highest football governing body in Africa.

The essence of holding this tournament is the huge financial returns that will be generated. It is expected to rake in about $200 million — with the future aim of reaching close to $3bn in revenue.

The money made from the African Football League will be used to develop and improve stadiums, infrastructure and the promotion of football in Africa.


In 2019, FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced the tournament during a visit to DR Congo to celebrate the 80th anniversary of TP Mazembe.

He said the top 20 clubs in Africa should be chosen and made to participate in an African Super League. And that this league would generate up to $200m in revenue — making it among the top 10 leagues in the world.

Infantino said: “We have to take the 20 best African clubs and put them in an Africa league. Such a league could make at least $200m in revenue, which would put it among the top 10 in the world.”

In July 2021, the President of CAF, Patrice Motsepe confirmed the move to implement the African Football League project as a new competition ran under the umbrella of CAF — with large financial returns for the teams taking part.

Initially called the Africa Super League, it was launched by CAF on the 10th of August 2022 in a ceremony that took place at the Arusha International Conference Centre in Arusha, Tanzania.

“The Africa Super League is one of the most exciting developments in the history of African football and the objective in terms of what we are trying to achieve is very clear, number one is to make sure African club football is world class and competes with the best in the world. This about the future of African football, this is about African taking charge of its future. To do this, we need money.”

“Football is about finance. It is about having a product and the commercial backing for it.” “The success of club football is based on commercial viability. The Africa Super League for us is the most important intervention to the development and advancement of football in Africa.”

“Football is a short career and football players have to maximize their earnings while they are playing. I have been involved with clubs for many years in African football, I understand the challenges.

“African clubs have never had a good foundation, financially to keep some of the best players in Africa, to stay in Africa, from an income perspective, they love the continent, they want to be in Africa, so the financial part of club football is a critical issue and what we’re hoping to do is improve the quality of football. We need to get the spectators excited to watch local football so it’s as good as watching football anywhere in the world.”

CAF President Patrice Motsepe when launching the African Football League

Format of the African Football League

The African Football League will start in October 2023. It will take place between the 20th of October to the 11th of November 2023.

It is meant to be a precursor tournament to the full fledged version, which will start in the 2024/25 season.

The inaugural season will feature eight teams in a knockout format, consisting of a quarterfinal, semifinal and final.

Each tie will be played over two legs, with each team playing one leg at home. The team that will score more goals on aggregate over the two legs will advance to the next round.

If the aggregate score will be level, the away goals rule will be applied, i.e. the team that will score more goals away from home over the two legs will advance. If away goals will be also equal, then extra time will not be played and the winners will be decided by a penalty shoot-out.

These teams will be taken from the best-ranked African clubs over the past few years and divided into groups on a regional basis (North, Central/West, South/East).

Qualifiers will be decided by rankings based on past results in CAF competitions.

All participating clubs will be required to have a youth academy and a women’s team as part of the licensing criteria.

8 teams have been chosen by CAF to enter the 2023 tournament. They are: Petro de Luanda (Angola); TP Mazembe (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Enyimba (Nigeria); Simba (Tanzania); Al Ahly (Egypt); Wydad Casablanca (Morocco); Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa); and Espérance de Tunis (Tunisia).

Relegation and promotion

One of the major reasons why the European Super League received huge criticism is because it was a closed shop — with no risks for the teams involved to be relegated.

It also had little-to-no prospect for teams outside the Super League to be included.

But the African Football League will be different, with teams getting relegated and promoted.

Both Motsepe and Infantino confirmed on Wednesday that there will be promotion and relegation in the competition — affording all football clubs in Africa the chance to dream of reaching the Super League.

Relegation and promotion will only take effect from next season (2024/25).

16 countries will be represented in the African Football League

CAF revealed that at least 16 countries would be represented in the Football League — meaning at least 29% of the 54 nations in Africa will be featured.

However, it remains unclear which countries get representation.

Infantino said that the tournament “will benefit each and every country.”

Countries cannot have more than three participants

There will be a maximum of three teams from each country at the tournament.

The schedule of the African Football League

CAF confirmed that the African Football League would run from August to May.

This would be similar to the European football calendar — rather than the January to December schedule employed by some African countries.

The tournament will end with a Super Bowl-like final, but will not be applied this season.



The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be used at African Football League.

Financial rewards

CAF President Patrice Motsepe addressing the CAF member states in Tanzania.

The main selling point of the African Football League is the financial rewards it will provide to clubs, member associations and CAF itself.

Money is the major focus and motivation behind the launch of the competition as CAF look to raise the level of the game on the continent.

CAF’s 54 member associations will all get $1m cash award per annum from the Super League revenue.

CAF itself is aiming to earn around $50m which it can dedicate to youth and women’s football.

President Motsepe announced that the first 24 participants in the competition will each receive an initial cash injection of $3.5m. This will help the teams offset the costs of travel, accommodation and logistics.

Ultimately, the winners of the African Football League will receive $11.6 million.

Indeed, these will go a long way in increasing the number of rich football clubs in Africa.

The prize money for the first season (2023/24) was announced in September 2023 and is as follows:

¶. $4,000,000 for the winner

¶. $3,000,000 for the runner-up

¶. $1,700,000 for each of the semi-finalists

¶. $1,000,000 for each of the quarter-finalists.

FIFA’s backing

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was present at the launch of the Africa Super League in Arusha, and he was quick to distance the new competition from the failed attempt to create a Super League by some European top clubs last year.

“Well, first of all, the Africa Super League is a completely different proposition than what was proposed in Europe, which was a kind of a breakaway thing outside of the structures,” Infantino said.

“This is done within the structure within CAF, within FIFA, within the football pyramid structure.”

Benefits of the Football League to African football

From George Weah, Jay-Jay Okocha, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure to Mohamed Salah; Africa has produced some of the best football players in the world. But its club soccer is terribly lagging behind other continents.

It is the only continent apart from Oceania to not have a league ranked higher than band 6 by the English FA, and its leagues don’t do well on other rankings either.

The creation of the Football League could change that, creating a large enough entity to compete with other leagues around the world and drive investment into African soccer.

A pan-African league would go a long way in helping to unlock the immense potential of African football clubs and players.

African football certainly could be restructured in a more efficient way, and an elite competition like the Football League would bring more money into African football than some of the current tournaments like the African Champions league and CAF Confederations Cup.

CAF also claimed that the Football League will allow African clubs to pay top-talent wages to match those in Europe and therefore allow African teams keep their best players — and even attract players from other continents.

The Football League will also benefit African countries at international tournaments like the FIFA World Cup, where no African nation has ever reached the semifinals.

Criticism of the African Football League

The competition has however come under criticism with some observers stating that it could discriminate against smaller clubs.

Moreso, the South African players’ union said the idea was ill-conceived and issued a statement criticising the plan.

Part of the statement reads: “Professional football in South Africa and Africa could be at risk if the resolution to commence with the Super League is implemented and there may be no return from the wreckage that a Super League can become.”

However, CAF President Patrice Motsepe stresses that the body is listening to dissenting voices.

“Part of our job is to engage and to consult with all stakeholders. And sometimes it’s more important to listen to those who have got different views and also those who disagree with you,” he told Sport Africa.

“I think some of them feel that we haven’t spoken to them. We couldn’t have spoken to everybody. It’s impossible. We will engage with all of them.”

Difference between the Africa Super League and the European Super League

In April 2021, twelve major European clubs announced that they would be forming the European Super League to start in August of the same year.

The founding clubs of the Super League tournament wanted to generate massive revenues, which eventually was intended to be distributed amongst UEFA, national associations, and leagues, but only after the teams get their fair share of profit.

The announcement, however, received wide opposition from fans, UEFA, FIFA, and some national governments, with most slamming it for elitism and rivalling Europe’s premier club football tournament: the UEFA Champions League.

The plan for the European Super League was eventually abandoned.

Part of the reasons why the Super League failed in Europe but worked in Africa is that in Europe, the control of the European Super League was meant to be completely taken out of the hands of UEFA and by extension, FIFA.

Both FIFA and UEFA did not want such situation where they will loose control of the clubs because it will mean loosing too much relevance in European football. But in the case of Africa, CAF is the one organising the Super League.

Furthermore, African clubs don’t have means of generating huge revenue like their European counterparts; so any means to add to their revenues will go a long way.

Lastly, the European Super League was set to be exclusive to the elite clubs alone — thereby alienating others. Whereas, the African Football League will feature relegation and promotion — affording the smaller clubs chance to participate.

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