The Working Committee of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) has approved the increase of the number of participating teams from 16 to 24. It also gave a green light for the tournament to be moved from January/February to June/July.
Comprised of players, coaches including movers and shakers of continental football, the committee voted in favour of both proposals at the two-day CAF Symposium that started on Tuesday and ended on Wednesday in Rabat, Morocco.
The proposal will now go to the CAF Executive Committee as a resolution and is expected to gain final approval with a vote on Thursday (today).
After the expected Executive Committee approval, details including when the changes may take effect will be ironed out by a technical committee at a specified date. According to CAF twitter handle, among those advocating a change to a four-year cycle is Ghanaian legend Abedi Pele.
CAF president Ahmad Ahmad also said in his opening address in Morocco: “This is the first thing to talk about – we can’t get away from it. We have already had a lot of suggestions.”
A number of players turned down-call-ups for this year’s tournament in Gabon preferring to stay with their respective clubs; this included the seven, who snubbed to turn out for Cameroon that eventually won the title.
Every after two years, European clubs always complain about losing players during a decisive period of the season due to the AFCON competition.
Compounding the clubs’ concerns is the fact that their players often come back exhausted from Africa’s flagship sporting event—this year’s competition ran from January 14 to February 5.
With the current new CAF President Ahmed in the cockpit, it is expected the move could be approved according to analysts. Previously, former CAF boss Issa Hayatou, argued that the weather in many parts of the Africa meant the competition had to be staged at the start of the year.
He consistently vetoed suggestions of a move to June, saying the weather then was too hot in Northern Africa, too wet in the West and Centre and too cold in the South.
The new CAF president 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 that co-hosting would allow CAF to consider proposals to increase the number of teams at the finals to 24.
The other key issues that were scrutinized are Africa’s leading club competitions – the CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup, the potential for a date change for the competitions, which traditionally run from early in the calendar year through to the respective finals in November.
This year’s CAF Symposium which is said to be a historic chapter that will bring great change and transformation of Africa football has attracted over 200 delegates prior to the start of a series of workshops. This year’s theme is “African Football, Our Vision.”