KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- French champions Paris Saint-Germain have taken their fight against UEFA’s financial fair play regulations to sport’s supreme court.
Confirmation of battle being joined came last night from the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. Coincidentally, it followed only days after the Football Leaks allegations about how PSG’s Qatari owners had persuaded the European federation to ease up on its FFP sanctions.
A decision in favour of PSG would rock the entire FFP edifice which was built by UEFA under the presidency of now-banned Frenchman Michel Platini. The system was intended to force clubs to balance their books under pain of possible exclusion from European club competitions including, most notably, the hugely lucrative Champions League.
UEFA’s general secretary in the early years of FFP was Swiss lawyer Gianni Infantino who rose subsequently to become president of world governing body FIFA. His negotiating strategy with PSG on behalf of UEFA was brought into question by the Football Leaks information.
Last month CAS said that, among imminent reforms, it would consider holding its hearings in public to match the principle of justice not only being done but being seen to be done.
However not only will that not be applied in the PSG case but notification of the action was remarkable – by comparison with the usual such CAS statements – for its brevity.
CAS said only: “The Court of Arbitration for Sport has registered an appeal filed by the French club Paris Saint-Germain Football SASP against a decision rendered by the European Football Association (UEFA) in September 2018.
“At the parties’ request, the procedure will be conducted on a confidential basis with the exception of the final award which will be published.
“In these circumstances, CAS is unable to provide any further information regarding the matter.”
However, ‘further information’ happens to be in the public domain concerning the affairs of PSG who play Napoli in Italy in the Champions League tonight.
PSG’s action at CAS was prompted by a decision from UEFA in September that its club finance review body should reopen a study of the club’s business which had come under further scrutiny since the €400m acquisition in 2017 of Brazilian superstar Neymar from Barcelona and World Cup-winning France starlet Kylian Mbappe from Monaco.
The reopening of the case is is the decision which PSG is contesting.
Last week Jean-Claude Blanc, PSG’s managing director, told French media that the uncertainty was damaging a club “which has 700 employees, a lot of teams on many pitches and which needs to plan ts activities like all companies . . . This uncertainty would be intolerable in any other industry.”
President of PSG is Qatari businessman Nasser Al-Khelaïfi who is also chairman and ceo of beIN Media Group as well as being head of Qatar Sports Investments.
UEFA lost its last high-profile FFP case at CAS in July when heavily-indebted Italian club Milan won an appeal against a ban from the Europa League imposed for breach of financial control regulations.
On Friday the Football Leaks revelations, published simultaneously by 14 European news outlets, claimed that the former leadership of UEFA had connived at easing FFP sanctions against PSG for over-valuing sponsorship to mitigate against heavy spending on players’ transfers and wages. Thus PSG was fined ‘only’ €20m fine with a €40m suspended fine.
Qatari sources have reportedly injected €1.8bn since the club’s acquisition in 2011, including €1.35bn through sponsorships.
The Qatar Tourism Authority, the club’s main sponsor, had handed over more than $200m-a-year while independent assessors had suggested a market value of just €2.7m.
A subsequent agreement between the club and Platini and Infantino so former Celtic chairman Brian Quinn, the head of UEFA’s club finance control body, that he apparently refused to sign off on it and stepped down.
PSG has refuted the allegations gleaned from “more than 70m documents by the European Investigative Collaborations.”
A lengthy statement of denial said: “Paris Saint-Germain always acted in absolute compliance with the laws and regulations issued by sports institutions. The club has always complied strictly with the laws and regulations in force and strongly denies the allegations.”.
It added: “The exchanges with the members of the chambers of the financial control of clubs (ICFC) are done within the framework provided by the statutes of UEFA. On this basis, UEFA then decides independently. The severity of the decisions rendered about Paris Saint-Germain demonstrates this.”
English champions Manchester City and its United Arab Emirates owners have been reported as having negotiated a similar compromise.