UEFA helped Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City get around their own Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, according to a Football Leaks investigation published on Friday.
According to the investigation of “more than 70 million documents” analysed “over eight months by 80 journalists” from members of European Investigative Collaborations (EIC), UEFA “knowingly helped the clubs to cover up their own irregularities for ‘political reasons'”.
Both clubs, owned and bankrolled by wealth from Qatar and Abu Dhabi respectively, have avoided the most severe Financial Fair Play punishment of being excluded from the UEFA Champions League.
That is despite using “forbidden money” to inflate their budgets, according to the investigation.
Football Leaks claims Qatar and Abu Dhabi combined “have injected some 4.5 billion euros ($5.1 billion) in the last seven years” to increase the budgets of the clubs they own. Of that figure, 2.7 billion euros has been into City, via their Abu-Dhabi owners and from allegedly “overestimated” sponsorship deals.
UEFA rules state that clubs cannot spend more than they earn in any given season and deficits must fall within a 30-million-euro limit over three seasons.
Both PSG and City were fined 60 million euros by UEFA in May 2014, but both were told they would get 40 million euros of that back if they stuck to the terms of their settlement.
French investigative website Mediapart claims Gianni Infantino — the current FIFA president who was then UEFA’s general secretary — “directly negotiated an agreement with Manchester City”, bypassing the Financial Control Panel of European football’s governing body.
Included in copy in emails sent by Infantino to City’s chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak was Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president and a PSG fan but who also reputedly helped City’s Abu-Dhabi owners in their attempts to get around FFP rules.
Asked for a reaction by Mediapart, City said “the attempt to damage the reputation of the club is organised and clear.”
PSG said in a statement that it has “always complied strictly with the laws and regulations in force and strongly denies the allegations published today by Mediapart”.
Meanwhile, Platini said that his FFP rules were not set up “to kill or strangle clubs financially” even if he always wanted punishments to be handed out.
PSG have been the subject of another UEFA investigation ever since coming under pressure from some of Europe’s footballing elite when the French champions signed Neymar from Barcelona for a world-record 222 million euros ($264 million) in August 2017.
In late September UEFA said it had referred the accusations against the Paris club to its financial unit “for further investigation”. PSG’s case, though, is complicated by lucrative sponsorship deals with the Qatar National Bank and the Gulf state’s tourism authority.
The Football Leaks investigation points the finger at PSG’s five-year agreement with the Qatar Tourism Authority, valued at 1.075 billion euros, or 215 million euros a year.
That is despite the investigation claiming that “two independent auditors (Repucom and Octagon) assigned by UEFA valued the contract at…123,000 euros per year for one, and 2.8 million euros a year for the other”.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits by Marisa Kennedy)