A bombshell revelation from Football Leaks passed through a consortium of worldwide outlets Friday, detailing a series of backroom deals orchestrated by a pair of European giants to circumvent Financial Fair Play (FFP) violations, and secret plans for a “Super League” consisting only of Europe’s heavyweights.
Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, reigning champions of Ligue 1 and the Premier League, respectively, were reportedly helped by FIFA president Gianni Infantino – then UEFA’s general secretary – to cover up their FFP violations.
According to Der Spiegel, Infantino allegedly held secret meetings with PSG and Manchester City officials and provided them with confidential material while the clubs were being investigated by UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body.
The German publication details how Infantino met discreetly with PSG general manager Jean-Claude Blanc in 2014 to discuss how the French club could tweak its contract with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) to avoid serious punishment from UEFA.
Infantino apparently accepted a deal that forced PSG to reduce the value of their contract with QTA – though the resulting figure remained more than 30 times higher than the sponsorship’s “fair value,” established as part of the FPP investigation. PSG was allowed to make up the €115-million reduction with new sponsors, which were again mostly from Qatar, but that wasn’t included in the settlement document. In return, the wording of the settlement was strict enough that UEFA’s reputation wouldn’t suffer.
This, however, was not an isolated incident.
Infantino, along with disgraced former UEFA president Michel Platini, also assisted City in negotiating a similar settlement with the European governing body despite investigators deeming the club’s sponsorship contracts with Abu Dhabi companies as “significantly overvalued.”
“The strategy, as one attorney suggested to Man City leadership, should be to reach a deal the club could live with, but without having to admit any misconduct,” Der Spiegel reports.
Both PSG and City have issued statements refuting the information in the leaks, with the latter adding: “The attempt to damage the Club’s reputation is organized and clear,” courtesy of the BBC’s Simon Stone.
Smaller clubs have been banned entirely from European competition for violating financial regulations. Russian outfit Rubin Kazan were barred in October for two seasons from UEFA club competitions.
‘Super League’ in the works
The leaks also highlighted a coordinated effort from some of the sport’s biggest clubs to launch a “European Super League” behind the backs of their respective football associations.
As revealed by Der Spiegel, a leaked email sent last month to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez revealed 11 clubs as “Founders” of a “European Super League” that would commence in 2021 – coinciding with a planned demise of the Champions League and allowing the clubs to separate from UEFA’s jurisdiction.
Real Madrid would be joined by Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal, PSG, City, Liverpool, and AC Milan as “Founders.”
Five more clubs – Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Roma – would join as “Initial Guests.”
The 11 founders would be spared from relegation at the end of each season. They would hold a 20-year membership as well as potential varying ownership stakes in the league.
Der Spiegel notes Bayern Munich denied knowledge of any such document, while Real Madrid declined to comment.
Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, however, did admit early talks of a Super League among Europe’s elite were real.
“(It) is clear, and I also believe that a few of Europe’s large clubs are clearly working on it,” Watzke said.