The WAFU Cup, West Africa’s top regional football tournament, is set for a big return in September when all 16 member countries head off to Ghana’s coastal cities Cape Coast and Takoradi.
The tournament, which is taking place after a four-year hiatus, is being sponsored by American television company Fox Sports.
The Fox Networks is putting a $24million investment in the property over the next dozen years and will broadcast matches from the competition on its global network.
The winners of the competition will get $100,000 in prize money, more than the combined prize money for the COSAFA Cup and CECAFA Cup, the regional competitions in southern and eastern Africa respectively.
Below are five things that a bigger WAFU Cup will bring:
- The brand value of the competition will rise as time goes on and it will attract more sponsors to the tournament. For a long time, the competition has suffered a lack of sponsorship making it unable to be held regularly. But with new money and a major broadcaster, expect it to grow in value and attract further partnerships.
- It will provide an opportunity to see a new crop of players from their domestic leagues as they attempt to impress on a big stage in front of TV audiences across the continent and from around the world. We will be able to see players from smaller countries like Guinea-Bissau (who incidentally played their first Africa Cup of Nations in 2017), Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mauritius and The Gambia, among others.
- More eyes on the players mean a greater opportunity to be seen by scouts from Europe and Asia as the appetite for African players continues. This competition should be able to give exposure to younger players from the leagues that would have struggled to compete for places in the A national teams.
- It also means more income for the West African FAs who are looking for funds to put into developing their local game. However, more money means that there would be an increase in competition for the WAFU Zone A and B seats when the next round of elections come up, so officials must be able to clearly manage their affairs not to jeopardise the game.
- A competition with 16 teams is a massive undertaking and will need proper planning, communication and marketing. It creates an opportunity to build a new set of sports managers across the sub-region.
A final thought is, how often will this competition take place? Will it be annual or bi-annual? Are there many countries capable of hosting a big event like this in the sub-region? Are there enough international-standard stadia to make the competition a good TV product? Is there enough information about it to drive local fans to the games? What are the fan engagement strategies for a bigger WAFU Cup?