As the investigations grow, the finances of football clubs look somewhat odd


Unexpected sponsorships in football

by Tony Attwood

A recent report in “L’Equipe”  has shown that not surprisingly Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Lionel Messi are the three highest-paid footballers in the French championship with Kylian Mbappé one of the highest-paid sportsmen in the world, at around £5.25 million a week (although different articles give different amounts!). 

If we then consider Neymar, and Lionel Messi, also both at PSG, those three players alone have annual salaries of £126m a year.  Which makes one wonder how PSG are managing to be abiding by financial fair play regulations.

Indeed “L’Équipe” tells us that 14 of the highest 16 paid footballers in France (maybe in Europe) are at PSG.

(Although we might also note in passing that Olympique Marseille does manage to have seven players among the top thirty salaried footballers in the French league – that list includes the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mattéo Guendouzi).

This raises the question, does Financial Fair Play exist in France?  And it is a relevant question given the sort of response we might expect this summer from Manchester City, (who seem to exist in the same sort of FFP hinterland as PSG) if Arsenal continues to their target of winning the Premier League.

In fact, things in France seem to be getting a little out of control.  For according to Salary Sport website “Olympique de Marseille have a total of 83 players in their squad” (and that is not a misprint).  That’s interesting because Paris Saint-Germain have a total of “only” 59 players in their home squad. 

But here’s a question: how can these salary figures fit within a financial fair play scheme of things?  PSG has an average crowd of 46,333, with admission prices lower than in the Premier League.   

One answer as to how they survive financially is perhaps because their chairman is Nasser Al-Khelaifi who we might note in passing is “under investigation into the alleged kidnapping and torture of a lobbyist in Qatar,” according to L’Équipe.  Untold of course has no evidence either way on any of this – we just report what we find in the European newspapers.

Indeed Nasser Al-Khelaifi has been mentioned before in these columns before as he is under investigation into the alleged kidnapping and torture of a lobbyist in Qatar, again according to L’Équipe

Al-Khelaifi is also a member of UEFA’s executive committee and chairman of the European Club Association which includes Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, Everton, Leicester City and Newcastle United.

Plus he owns beIN Sport which owns a lot of the footballing rights in the middle East, north Africa, France, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Hong Kong, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.  But I am sure they have any conflicts of interest well under control.

PSG itself has tied up deals with Nike, Qatar Airways, GOAT (the clothing and footwear company), Visit Qatar, Accor Live Limitless (a French hospitality company), Qatar National Bank, Visit Rwanda (also associated with Arsenal, with Rwanda itself also associated with the deportation of migrants to the UK), Ooredoo (a telecoms company in Doha), Gorillas, Autohero (second-hand cars), Orange, EA Sports, Aspetar (the official medical partner), GeekVape, Coca Cola, MSC Cruises, McDonald’s, Hisense electronics, Socios cryptocurrency, Gaussin logistics, Replay (the “official denim partner”), Therabody (wellness solutions), Dior, Nivea Men,, HotForex (commodities broker), 1XBet (online gambling).

Now my point in listing this lot is to show exactly where football is travelling and will travel, unless someone somewhere steps in a stops it.   A club like PSG ties up multiple companies as partners, and thus stops other clubs from having them as sponsors or partners, and so aggrandises ever more its position and its income.

My own view and this is just a personal view that I don’t have documentation to back up, so I might be wide of the mark, is that Manchester City are playing the same game.

Now that game might well be that each of these sponsors is an independent company legitimately investing in a commercially viable relationship with a football club in order to promote its name.  

And of course, this is not new.  We might recall when Manchester United linked up with Japanese tractor manufacturer Yanmar as the official tractor supplier to the club.

And all such sponsorships and links might be legitimate.  But there can also be a suspicion with some of them that the benefit to the sponsor is so tenuous that maybe there is more to it than that – although I must stress again that I have no evidence that this has ever happened at all anywhere in football.  It just looks a trifle odd.

It is of course possible that the ongoing Premier League’s investigation into Manchester City might come up with a few interesting examples, of which we will hear more in the future.


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