Big-spending Paris Saint-Germain is facing the threat of sanctions after preliminary investigations show that sponsorship contracts worth about €200m have been “overstated” at the Qatari-owned football club.
The preliminary findings of a Uefa probe will prompt fresh scrutiny of how the French club funded the signings of superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, and could lead to a large fine or a ban from taking part in the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
European football’s governing body last year launched a formal investigation into PSG after it paid a record €222m to acquire Brazilian forward Neymar from Spain’s FC Barcelona. French striker Mbappé was also signed on loan from domestic rivals AS Monaco — with a potential transfer fee of €200m.
European football executives at the time accused the French side of “financial doping” in the pursuit of trophies. “The big question, clearly, is Uefa going to be brave enough to enforce their own rules?” said a person close to the investigation. “If not for PSG, then frankly why bother?” The Mbappé deal included a clause that PSG would buy the player for about €200m if the club maintained their position in Ligue 1 The Uefa probe is examining whether PSG — bought in 2012 by Qatar Sports Investments, a state-funded group founded by Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar — had complied with financial fair play (FFP) rules intended to force clubs to spend within their means.
It is not the first time PSG has come under Uefa scrutiny in relation to FFP. In 2014 the club was fined €60m in prize money earned from playing in European competitions.
According to several people with knowledge of the matter, Uefa’s investigatory arm hired sports consultancy Octagon to conduct an independent review of PSG’s current sponsorship contracts amid concern some of the money had come from “related parties” — entities with financial or other close links to the club’s owners. Octagon was asked to determine the “fair value” of these sponsorships, and whether they were in line with normal market prices. According to two people with knowledge of the review, PSG’s sponsorship contracts are considered to have been “significantly overstated” compared with the assessment of their fair value.
Uefa’s investigatory team is due to meet next week to discuss the review. PSG is also due to meet the governing body and it is set to contest the findings. According to people familiar with the club’s position, findings of its own research show that additional factors helped add value to its sponsorships, such as greater international interest in PSG as a result of the Neymar signing.
But unless Uefa can be persuaded to assign a higher value to the sponsorship deals, the French club is on course to breach FFP rules that clubs are limited to making losses of no more than €30m over three seasons, according to people familiar with the process. As well as more than €400m in transfer fees for Neymar and Mbappé, the pair are paid a combined €40m in salary a season over five-year contracts, so the signings have added €120m a year to PSG’s bottom line, according to people with knowledge of the deals. The Mbappé deal included a clause that PSG would buy the player for about €200m if the club maintained their position in France’s top division, Ligue 1. PSG are currently league leaders and poised to win the competition.