By Tony Attwood
Let me say from the very start that PSG denies any involvement in the activities that are reported in Blick.ch today, and indeed the many other allegations we mention here and have mentioned before. Blick is, as I understand it, the best-selling newspaper in Switzerland but that doesn’t mean it is right.
But Blick is not a paper to be taken lightly, for when it breaks a story, there’s usually something there. I can’t say that this is the case this time, as obviously, I’m just reporting what I have read today, but I am making the point that this is not a story that a blogger (like me) has just been told by a mate who read it on Twitter.
The prime story is this. Paris Saint-Germain commissioned a communications agency across a period of two or three years to create multiple fake Twitter accounts to run hostile campaigns against specific people, clubs and groups. The initial research in this tale, as far as I can see, was done by Mediapart. PSG has denied all the allegations, saying, “The club has never contracted with an agency to harm anyone,”
A further report in 90 Min says the agency Digital Big Brother (DBB), deployed “an army of trolls” who 90 min say were working for PSG “to discredit personalities, journalists and even players of the team.”
Among the targets were, according to the report, “media deemed hostile to PSG such as Mediapart and L’Équipe, a fan slapped by Neymar, a young girl who accused the Brazilian star of rape” etc as well as club personalities such as player Adrien Rabiot and former sporting director Antero Henrique.”
According to the DBB report the “digital army serving the capital club… was supervised by the PSG communication department, headed at the time by Jean-Martial Ribes.” He has now left the club. PSG denies all the allegations.
It is being said that this report is similar to the “Barçagate” scandal that “involved the former president of FC Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu…. FC Barcelona, then headed by Bartomeu, had paid the company I3 Ventures to improve the image of the management in public opinion, through dozens of fake accounts on social networks.”
In that case attacks were launched against some former Barcelona players and those critical of the management like Joan Laporta and political figures like Carles Puigdemont. In 2021, the Catalan police conducted a search of the offices of Barça, Bartomeu and his right-hand man were arrested.
Of course talk of Barcelona takes us back to our own piece, Barcelona’s attempt to fool the financial regulator unravels which you might recall. And there was the piece How Uefa and PSG have taken control, and fooled all of football
The PSG story there started to emerge when Alex Phillips, (until recently the administrator of the World Football Remission Fund) was asked recently about the scandal that erupted over the Real Madrid vs PSG Champions League match in March this year, in response to which he said something rather revealing.
After the game, it appears that the PSG sporting director Leonardo and the PSG president (al-Khelaifi) forced their way into the referee’s dressing room and vigorously accused the referee of corruption.
Obviously, a serious offence in footballing terms, especially as it was committed by a man who sits on the top board of Uefa, is the chair of beIN Media and is the President of PSG. Accusations of violence, intimidation, and conflict of interest abound
Despite accusations of aggression and threats against the referee by the president of beIN Media there was not even an enquiry! But then the New York Times reported the opinion of Alex Phillips, who was a Uefa Executive for almost 20 years. He spoke to the NY Times saying, “The so-called independent judicial bodies are in reality far from independent.” It is exactly what has been suggested over the “independent” enquiry into the European Cup Final this year.
We also know that when al-Khelaifi’s PSG was investigated for breaching FFP rules Uefa decided to reject its own investigator’s report and accept totally PSG’s rejection of the argument! PSG you might recall were not part of the Super League proposal, as al-Khelaifi (who runs beIN media AND PSG and who is right at the heart of Uefa) was a key player in the movement to get Super League stopped since it would remove much of his company’s income.
He was also (it is said) at the heart of the extremely successful ploy to unify fans in England against Super League, as PSG’s credibility would slip if it were simply the one big fish in the non-super-league pond. And indeed they succeeded to a large degree.
The fact is that PSG can influence Uefa unduly through the position of al-Khelaifi as chairman of beIN Media, president and CEO of PSG, a member of the organizing committee for the World Cup and chair of the European Club Association. He also plays tennis with Aleksander Cererin, president of Uefa, but each of these factors are of course quite possibly just a coincidence.
As the New York Times wrote recently, “Most of the members of the commissions that investigated and ruled on PSG in its financial compliance case have either quit or been replaced.” Which must be just a coincidence.
As is the fact that no one in Uefa is investigating PSG in terms of FFP. Nor the allegations made in Blick today.
Why is that?
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