PSG risk being stuck in a ‘third tier’ European league as Ligue 1 struggle with losses
According to a new book, Paris Saint-Germain are destined to become a superpower stuck high and dry “in a third division European league”, as French football feels the impact of financial losses and mismanagement.
Ligue 1 is already a procession most seasons, with PSG finishing top of eight of the last 10 campaigns, but the situation could deteriorate further, according to media analyst and author Pierre Maes.
Maes even warns that PSG’s Qatari backers could consider investing in the English Premier League, if the Paris side struggle to maintain a European challenge as domestic competition wanes.
His new book, The Ruin of French Football (The Ruin of French Football), documents the financial crisis that engulfed the French league after an extremely optimistic TV deal with Spanish company Mediapro fell through in December 2020.
The lingering consequences of this disaster, in which French clubs struck a TV deal well above market value, is to cut teams’ income, although PSG continue to benefit more than most.
Maes ominously predicts that Ligue 1, which is currently considered one of Europe’s big five leagues along with Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and the Premier League, will see a steady decline in the quality of players it can attract. and keep, eventually falling to the level of the Scottish Premiership or the Russian Premier League.
Paris Saint-Germain are a super-powerful club safe from the financial crisis in Ligue 1
“He’s going to the third tier of European football,” Maes said sports mail. “It will not be possible for other clubs, other than PSG, to buy good players.
“They will try to get young talent or buy cheap players to sell at a higher price. French clubs will be very weak in European competitions.
France is already a major exporter of football talent. The CIES Football Observatory found that as of May 1 this year, the country was second only to Brazil in exporting players, with 978 expatriates plying their trade overseas.
Qatari PSG owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi is in a position to invest heavily in the club to succeed
The danger for French teams now is that their position in the international transfer market is weakened and they could be forced to sell more players for less.
In addition, a multitude of clubs would be for sale. Indeed, just this week, the parent company of Lyon, announced that it was in talks with Eagle Football Holdings, an investment vehicle controlled by the co-owner of Crystal Palace, John Textor, and the founder of Authentic Brands, Jamie Salter.
The potential sale underlines the financial distress of French clubs, but also suggests that investors are still willing to invest in Ligue 1 teams, even if they fall behind stronger rivals.
Olympique Lyonnais announced this week that the club was in discussion with a potential buyer
Last season, of the three French teams qualified for the Champions League, Monaco were eliminated in the play-off before the group stage by Shakhtar Donetsk, Lille were eliminated by Chelsea in the round of 16 and at the same stage, PSG is fell against the eventual winner of the competition, Real Madrid.
The French have not enjoyed European club success since Marseille won the European Cup in 1993 and PSG lifted the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996.
The thing is, while their domestic opponents have been hit hard, PSG are sheltered from the financial storm.
In an extraordinary show of intent, the Parisian giants recently handed their star player, Kylian Mbappe, a new three-year £650,000-a-week contract.
However, if PSG are struggling to maintain a consistent and credible European challenge going forward, Maes wonders why Qatari investors would continue to support Paris, rather than moving their money elsewhere.
PSG is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, which is backed by the Qatari government and headed by PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
“When you look at the investment in Manchester City and Newcastle United, you may ask yourself ‘why is Qatar investing in France?’
Brazilian striker Neymar is one of the megastars of PSG, champion of Ligue 1
“If the Qataris were to [invest] again, of course, they would invest in the Premier League. It’s amazing to see them struggling with PSG since 2011. It’s not a success.
While PSG have dominated at home, in the UEFA Champions League they have reached the round of 16 and quarter-finals four times respectively, one semi-final and they have also been runners-up for the past decade.
Top-level French football is in a long, slow decline
“If they no longer see a future at PSG, the Qataris will leave,” Maes said. ‘That’s for sure. This is the danger.
“There is not enough competition for PSG in Ligue 1,” added Maes. “The league is at a low level and the value is down.”
Top-level French football is in a long, slow decline. But the current crisis has been precipitated by a combination of the Covid pandemic and the disastrous TV deal.
The French league was rubbing its hands when it reached a deal with Mediapro, the Barcelona-based, China-backed media company in 2018, for £670million a year for 80% rights over a period of four years.
This was an increase of 60% compared to the previous agreement with Canal+. Meanwhile, Canal+ has struck a separate deal with beIN Sports, the Qatar-based broadcaster, picking up its £283m-a-year deal for the rest of the rights.
In total, the French league thought it had done business worth around £1bn a year, which would benefit Ligue 1 and 2. The windfall was thought to catapult its clubs into competition with at least three of the Big Five leagues. Premier League TV revenue dwarfs the rest.
The French club recently agreed a new deal for Kylian Mbappe worth £650,000 a week
It was too good to be true and Mediapro couldn’t make the payments in the months following the deal starting with the 2020-21 season.
The collapse of the arrangement launched an epic saga, which eventually led to a drastic reduction in French football’s television revenue, back to what it was in the 2016-17 season.
Remarkably, Amazon Prime took over the business from Mediapro for around £215million, in what has been described as “the deal of the century”, by the Athleticismwhile Canal+ paid more, for fewer games, would have been furious and sought redress.
Unfortunately, for Ligue 1, it didn’t stop there. Earlier this year, a new trading company that will handle the sale of French league broadcast rights struck a separate deal with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners.
PSG won the Ligue 1 title this season 15 points clear of second-placed Marseille
The deal is structured in such a way that the biggest clubs get the most money. PSG will be the biggest beneficiary with £170million, Olympique Marseille, Olympique Lyonnais, OGC Nice, Stade Rennais, AS Monaco and Lille OSC are also said to have received large payments.
Maes is skeptical that the shot in the arm will change the underlying condition. “I don’t think it will save French football,” he said. “It will just give them time.”
All major European leagues are struggling to keep pace with the Premier League. For the rights cycle, 2022-25, the Premier League has secured over £10bn for its domestic and international deals combined.
PSG yearn for European success, but the club are yet to win the Champions League
Unlike France, where the league so antagonized Canal+ that the broadcaster turned to the courts, the Premier League has sought to balance the interests of Sky, BT Sport and Amazon Prime Video in its domestic rights sales.
The closest competitor to the English league is LaLiga. He is halfway through a five-year cycle which generates £3.7bn over that period and a three-year domestic deal brings in £2.9bn.
The difference in wealth can already be seen clearly in income and transfer activity.
According to the Deloitte Football Money League 2022, which ranks clubs by revenue and financial performance, half of the top 20 teams in the league play in the Premier League. PSG is the only French representative; Lyon dropped out this year.
In addition, the Premier League accounted for almost 50% of European ‘big five’ league spending in the January 2022 transfer window.
* The ruin of French football: From the Mediapro crash to the European D3: whose fault is it? (The Ruin of French Football) is available from Fyp editors