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  • UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino attends a news conference after a meeting of UEFA

    UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino attends a news conference after a meeting of UEFA's executive committee, on the eve of the draw of the Euro 2016 finals in Paris. | Photo: Reuters FILE

Published 2 November 2018

The report, published on Friday, states that the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), through its then-president Michel Platini (2007-2015) and its then-Secretary-general Gianni Infantino (2003-2016) now leading the International Football Federation (FIFA), helped mainly two clubs Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester City, to avoid sanctions for committing financial doping and breaches of financial fair play.

A new report by the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC), has revealed a new case, after almost two years, of the "Football Leaks." The report, based on "over 70 million documents,"  revealed cases of financial doping, which breaks the Financial Fair-Play (FFP) created on 2010 to prevent European teams from spending more money than they earn, under punishment of sanctions including potentially being banned from their competitions.

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The report, published on Friday, states that the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), through its then-president Michel Platini (2007-2015) and its then-Secretary-general Gianni Infantino (2003-2016) now leading the International Football Federation (FIFA), helped mainly two clubs Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester City, to avoid sanctions for committing financial doping and breaches of financial fair play.

The FFP rules intend to reduce the power of top clubs with rich owners, by reducing their capability of using their wealth to dominate the most popular sport in the world. However, UEFA enabled Manchester City and Paris St. Germain to avoid the toughest sanctions, which included the potential banning from competitions after they broke the FFP rules. 

The regulations include a limit on the losses clubs can incur. They are intended, among other things, to prevent clubs running up big debts or receiving unlimited amounts of money through inflated sponsorship deals with organizations related to the owners. In short, related-party sponsors should not pay more than the market rate to support a club.

The "Football Leaks" documents, which include emails, contracts and presentations relating to the clubs, were obtained by the German publication Der Spiegel and reviewed by Reuters in partnership with EIC, a consortium of international media. The cache, which spans much of the past 10 years, includes previously undisclosed details of UEFA's investigation of the two clubs' financial affairs, the settlement terms and Infantino's involvement in the negotiations.

Man. City is part of City Football Group, which is majority-owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, half-brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi. The sheikh is a deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and has a soccer empire that also includes clubs in the United States, Australia and Uruguay. Paris St. Germain is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, a state-backed body founded by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. His country is currently spending billions of dollars in preparation for hosting the next FIFA World Cup in 2022.

In the cases of these two specific clubs, UEFA's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB), that oversees the FFP rules, said that the Emirati and Qatari sponsors were far in excess of the market value estimated by independent experts.

With Paris St. Germain, UEFA's Club Financial Control Body allowed the club to value its sponsorship deal with the Qatar Tourism Authority, a government agency, at 100 million euros a year. Yet independent experts advising the CFCB told it the market value of the QTA sponsorship was only a few million euros a year or less, the documents show. With Man City, UEFA's control body allowed the club to book three times more income from some Abu Dhabi sponsors than independent experts deemed the sponsorship deals were worth – about an extra 20 million pounds a year.

These arrangements helped to boost the clubs' income, enabling them to comply with UEFA rules that limit the losses clubs are allowed to incur. That, in turn, helped the clubs to spend tens of millions more on players than they otherwise would have been able to do.


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