Confederation of African Football Honorary President Issa Hayatou has had a year's ban imposed on him by FIFA overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after an appeal ©CAF

Former Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Issa Hayatou has won an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against a year’s suspension imposed by FIFA.

The Cameroonian official, at one stage Acting President of FIFA, was found guilty in June 2021 of breaching the 15th article of its Code of Ethics.

This followed an Ethics Committee investigation into an agreement between CAF and marketing company Lagardère Sports over the media and marketing rights for CAF competitions.

Hayatou breached his duty of loyalty by entering into an agreement which was anti-competitive and caused financial and reputational damage to CAF, ruled the FIFA Ethics Committee.

But CAS has now cleared Hayatou and quashed the year’s ban and CHF30,000 (£24,000/$32,000/€28,000) fine he received from football’s world governing body.

"As the CAS Panel has upheld the appeal, the Challenged Decision is set aside and no sanction is to be imposed on Issa Hayatou," CAS said in its ruling.

The 75-year-old had filed an appeal to CAS last August.

A panel headed by Dutchman Manfred Nan, a former professional footballer, held a hearing in December and decided to overturn FIFA's decision.

"Following its deliberations, the Panel found that there was insufficient evidence to establish a violation of Article 15 para. 1 of the FIFA Code of Ethics which would justify the sanctions imposed on Issa Hayatou by the FIFA instance," the judgement published today said. 

"As a consequence, the CAS Panel upheld the appeal and set aside the Challenged Decision."

Issa Hayatou was Acting President of FIFA for a brief period in 2015 and 2016 but the organisation later banned him from football for a year for corruption ©Getty Images
Issa Hayatou was Acting President of FIFA for a brief period in 2015 and 2016 but the organisation later banned him from football for a year for corruption ©Getty Images

FIFA claimed that CAF had lost hundreds of millions of dollars by entering into a contract extension with Lagardère without properly exploring alternatives or considering launching an open tender process.

The multi-million-dollar deal signed with Lagardère in 2016, binding CAF to the company for 20 years, was worth $200 million (£148 million/€174 million) less than the CAF estimate of its value, according to FIFA.

The contract extension, and Hayatou's role in it, had "caused significant damage" to CAF, FIFA claimed.

Hayatou and his former secretary general Hicham El Amrani had previously each been ordered to pay $27.9 million (£20.6 million/€24.3 million) by the Egyptian Economic Court in 2018 in relation to the deal.

But the legal counsel for Hayatou, the President of CAF between 1988 and 2017, had argued following the FIFA ruling that the "investigation was selective and biased, collecting only evidence to the detriment of the accused, not being conducted in an independent manner and not respecting the presumption of innocence".

Hayatou's defence claimed that the agreement with Lagardère Sports was "entered into with the full knowledge of the members of the CAF Executive Committee", and that it is "unthinkable that the CAF President would have acted alone".

Hayatou was on the FIFA Council from 1990 to 2017, and led the organisation for five months from October 2015 to February 2016, after Sepp Blatter was suspended and before Gianni Infantino was elected President.

Hayatou had been elected as an International Olympic Committee member in 2001 and remained one until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2016.

Hayatou is now an honorary member.