The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has officially confirmed that the AFCON tournament will henceforth be held in the months of June and July, instead of January and February.
The AFCON Tournament Moved to June and July
It will, however, remain a bi-annual event, even though there have been reports of an initiative for it to be held every four years like the World Cup and the European Championship.
The decision has been made on Thursday, July 20th, at a meeting of the CAF Executive Committee in Rabat, Morocco, after the resolution had been passed at the first CAF African Football Symposium, held from 18th – 19th July at the Palais des Congres in Skhirat, near Rabat.
Football clubs around Europe will embrace the change with delight. It will mean their players of African nationalities will not be leaving in the middle of a season to attend the competition. Earlier this year, 23 players from the Premier League were involved, including Rhiyad Mahrez (Leicester City)and Sadio Mane (Liverpool).
Some players rejected the call-up including Joel Matip of Liverpool and Allan Nyom of West Bromwich Albion, together with five more Cameroonian players. This prompted the Cameroonian Federation to take the matter to FIFA. The World football governing body took their time in taking an official position over the issue, and even though they eventually gave the green light for the players to play for their respective clubs, some damage had already been done.
Therefore, the decision to hold the AFCON in June and July represents a sound way to avoid such issues in the future.
The decision to keep the event bi-annually has been reasonably explained through the revenue it generates for the CAF, as well as the development, including building of infrastructure, of the hosting countries.
Another change that will be implemented into the competition will be the increase in the number of participating countries, from 16 to 24. Though this particular change will certainly increase the revenue the competition generates, it could cause some difficulties for Cameroon, the country hosting the next tournament. There were already concerns expressed that the preparations were behind schedule, but the Cameroonian Sports Minister has given assurances that the 2019 AFCON will go ahead as planned.
Both Algeria and Morocco have offered themselves as alternative options.