KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- European federation UEFA will confront a major conflict of interest challenge next week in Rome over the status of Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
The beIN broadcaster’s chairman has been voted in by the European Club Association, meeting in Lisbon, as one of its two representatives on the UEFA exefutive committee along with ECA president Andrea Agnelli.
ECA had to make a change after the resignation of Ivan Gazidis following his departure from the role of ceo at Arsenal.
Al-Khelaifi, as a senior member of the ECA, was an obvious choice by the association which represents a 200-plus core of clubs who compete regularly in Europe’s international competitions.
He had already been serving on UEFA’s professional football strategy council on behalf of the ECA.
However his appointment to the exco is subject to ratification from UEFA Congress next week in Rome and this has provided a significant conflict of interest issue to the European body which has always remained distanced from the controversies of governance which have swamped world federation FIFA.
Two issues have been hanging over Al-Khelaifi.
Firstly, PSG are under a reopened investigation by UEFA over concerns related to financial fair play regulations; last September UEFA handed the case back to its club financial control body for review.
PSG were bought by Qatar Sports Investments, a Doha-based fund with close links to the Qatari royal family, in 2011 and significant support from Qatari companies helped fund the major purchases of stars such as Brazil’s Neymar and France’s Kylian Mbappe.
Simultaneously beIN Sport, the voracious Qatari broadcast channel headed by Al-Khelaifi, acquired television rights to the French league.
Secondly, Al-Khelaifi has been under investigation in Switzerland since October 2017 over criminal allegations involving beIN’s World Cup television rights purchases negotiated with Jerome Valcke, the sacked and banned former FIFA secretary-general.
Al-Khelaifi has always denied any wrongdoing.
The prospective accession of Al-Khelaifi to the UEFA exco has been fiercely criticised by Javier Tebas, the president of the Spanish league and a long-time critic of what he believes is the leniency afforded to PSG by the European body.
Tebas said: “His appointment must be rejected as it violates all reasonable rules of governance, not only because of the financial fair play file, also because he is president of beIN Sports, one of the main UEFA broadcast rights buyers.”
The Qatari did not refer to a conflict of interest in accepting his ECA nomination.
Al-Khelaifi said: “I am deeply honoured to have been elected by my fellow ECA executive board members to join the UEFA executive committee. I look forward to working alongside members of the committee to enhance and develop European football, whilst ensuring that the interests of all the clubs are represented in the decision making process.”
** Brazil forward Neymar will miss both legs of PSG’s Champions League second round tie against Manchester United because of a fractured metatarsal.