If UEFA wanted to find one club to illustrate the concept of ‘financial doping’ it would probably point to Paris St-Germain.
Although the club hasn’t posted formal accounts for two years* they have had to provide figures to the DNCG [the organisation that oversees club accounting on behalf of the Ligue de Football Professionel (LFP)]. DNCG publishes the account information and I have attached the relevant page for PSG for the year ending June 2012 (with my highlights and translation of the key items):
Although the club made a loss of €5.5m, the line to look at is the red highlighted item ‘Other’ for €125m. Without this mysterious item, the club would have made a staggering loss of €130m in the first season of the FFP Monitoring Period. So, what was this €125m?
In January 2013, PSG announced that it had signed a huge deal with the Qatar Tourist Authority (QTA). The precise amount of the deal was a little vague but it appears the revenue may be around €200m a year. When the deal was announced the club advised that it would be backdated – at the time many believed this meant to the beginning of the 2012/13 season. However Le Parisien reported that the deal would actually be backdated to the previous season. Now that we see figures, it is apparent that this is exactly what the club has done – a deal agreed in January 2013 for promoting the Qatar Tourist Authority has been backdated to the year before the deal actually existed!
It is interesting to note that for all that money, the QTA don’t even get their names on the club shirts (that honour goes to Emirates airline). All QTA receive for their money is the rather nebulous benefit of association with the club (plus promotion within the ground). Even if the stories about renaming the 'Parc de princes' as 'Parc de Qatar' ultimately turn out to true, it’s hardly a decent return for the €325m that they have already paid to the club.
Fortunately, this outrageous deal will be assessed by UEFA’s CFCB panel. It is very likely that QTA would be considered to be ‘related’ to the PSG owners (both have the same beneficial owners - the Qatari government). Under UEFA FFP rules, all ‘related party transactions’ will have to be assessed by the CFCB and a ‘fair value’ assigned to the deal. Determining a ‘fair-value’ won’t be easy but the panel will look at precedents such as the Azerbaijan Tourist Board’s €20m a year shirt sponsorship of Atletico Madrid. The CFCB panel are actually independent from UEFA and, as we saw with their decision to ban Malaga from the UEFA competition for having ‘overdue payables’, they are prepared to take tough decisions. The writing appears to be on the wall for PSG - in January UEFA General Secretary Infantino warned PSG that they could not ‘cheat’ the rules.
For me, all the indications point to PSG being banned from UEFA competitions from 2014/15 as a result of failing the FFP Break Even test. However, the position is actually potentially more serious (and interesting) for PSG.
During 2012, UEFA decided to introduce a new punishment for clubs that fail to meet the FFP criteria. Without any great fanfare, UEFA introduced a sanction enabling them to strip a club of their UEFA title if they ultimately fail the FFP test. Perhaps the punishment was added as a deterrent, but it seems more likely that UEFA would use it strip Paris St-Germain (or Malaga) of their title if they were to win the Champions League. There is also every chance that prize money may also be withheld (another of UEFA's available sanctions).
We therefore need to ponder the interesting scenario whereby David Beckham end ups winning the Champions League with PSG, only to be asked to return his medal six months later!
*French law allows a company to pay a fine (between €1500 and €3000) if it doesn’t wish to log accounts with France’s Companies House (Greffe). Companies often prefer to pay the fine.
For an analysis of Paris St-Germain’s finances (and those of other clubs), visit Luca Marotta's excellent Italian site http://luckmar.blogspot.
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