The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has issued a thinly-veiled warning to Egyptian clubs to stay out of the political crisis in the Gulf.
Long-simmering tensions between Qatar and its neighbours boiled over earlier this month when Saudi Arabia and a number of other Arab states cut all ties with Qatar over the oil and gas-rich kingdom’s alleged support for terrorism.
Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host nation, has rejected the accusations.
The political earthquake in the Gulf has also affected beIN Sports – the Qatari sports network which has the sole rights in the Middle East to broadcast tournaments such as the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup.
beIN Sports, which also has exclusive rights to the African Champions League and Confederation Cup, has been blocked in many Gulf countries over the crisis.
Earlier this month, the Egyptian Football Association along with the North African country’s two biggest clubs – Al Ahly and Zamalek – announced that beIN Sports journalists would be barred from covering their games and press conferences.
On the eve of Tuesday’s Champions League match against Wydad Casablanca, Al Ahly Head Coach Hossam El Badry objected to the presence of beIN Sports reporters at the pre-match press conference in Casablanca.
Having threatened to walk out, El Badry eventually performed his media duties but clashed with beIN Sports reporters over the positioning of their microphone.
CAF has now issued a statement warning the Egyptian clubs of unspecified sanctions over any boycott of the Champions League rights holders.
The statement from the continent’s governing body highlighted the importance of separating politics from football and called on all “football stakeholders to uphold the principles of neutrality and independence” when it comes to politics.
The statement said: “The guarantee of respect for these principles of neutrality and independence is part of the statutory missions of CAF and FIFA, as well as the obligations of member associations.
“Certain inadequate behaviours in this respect have recently been noted by representatives of certain clubs and national teams competing in CAF competitions.
“Such behaviour has no place in a sports competition.”