Column: 'Alarming' _ French football drowns even as its top club, Paris Saint-Germain, thrives

  • Article by: JOHN LEICESTER , Associated Press
  • Updated: September 4, 2014 - 10:00 AM

PARIS — When billionaire investors bought Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco in 2011, it seemed like the dawn of a new era for French football, a chance for the puniest of Europe's "Big 5" leagues to grow some financial and competitive muscle.

Pop! How quickly that bubble of optimism has burst.

Instead of catching up with the Premier League or the Bundesliga, a growing catalog of signs indicates that French clubs — with the exception of Qatari-owned PSG — are slipping further behind rivals in England, Germany, Spain and Italy. Russia, sinking hundreds of billions of rubles of public and private money into the 2018 World Cup and its football clubs, is also now snapping at France's heels.

Armed with an awesome collection of players, owners with seemingly bottomless pockets, and by far the biggest revenues and crowds in France, PSG has quickly become a European force. But it could be a long time — perhaps never — before the likes of Marseille, Saint-Etienne, Monaco or Reims play another European Cup final.

"It is alarming," France's junior minister for sport, Thierry Braillard, said this week in an interview with The Associated Press. "Our problem is that there is a very big difference between Paris Saint-Germain and all the other teams."

One of France's World Cup stars, winger Mathieu Valbuena, said "au revoir" to Marseille this August for a bigger salary at Dynamo Moscow. More alarming: Russia vaulted ahead of France in the rankings UEFA uses to gauge the relative strength of Europe's leagues and, vitally, how many clubs they can enter in UEFA competitions.

While English clubs splurged record amounts to strengthen their lineups in the transfer window that closed this week, French clubs made do. For every euro spent recruiting players, the Premier League spent eight, research by audit firm Deloitte shows. The Spanish league outspent the top French division by a ratio of 4-to-1, with Italy's Serie A and the German Bundesliga also outspending it by more than 2-to-1.

Monaco pawned off its biggest stars, Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez, to Manchester United and Real Madrid, respectively — a clear signal that the club's Russian billionaire owner, Dmitry Rybolovlev, is losing his appetite for lavish spending.

Monaco's retreat leaves PSG alone as by far the biggest fish in a dwindling pond. Even PSG's president recognizes that is a danger for his club's future ambitions, because a championship becoming a monopoly risks losing its appeal.

Without a strong Monaco, France could also struggle to recoup the UEFA ranking points it needs to move back ahead of Russia. Unless that slide is reversed, France could be left with just one guaranteed spot in UEFA's lucrative Champions League from 2016.

And if PSG monopolizes that spot, by winning the league title year after year, it will scoop up tens of millions of euros (dollars) in UEFA prize money each season, while most or all other French teams could be left with none or far less. That, in turn, could set in stone the already yawning financial gulf between the Paris club and its supposed French rivals.

"We were counting heavily on Monaco to keep winning (UEFA) points," Bruno Satin, one of France's best-known player agents, said in an AP interview. "Now that they've slammed the brakes on their plans, we're asking ourselves what's going to happen and I think all of French football is going to suffer.

"With all the resources at its disposal and the World Cup coming, Russia and its clubs will continue to make important investments and attract good players," he added. "So their upward accession will continue."

Luc Dayan, who presided over several clubs including Lille and Lens, said in a separate AP interview: "We have a real problem of economic competitiveness. And now that it has become visible, you can see it, on the pitch and in the clubs' accounts."

Braillard argued that the problem isn't entirely of France's making, noting that other countries allowed clubs to accumulate monster debts, while the French league's financial watchdog forces clubs to be more prudent.

"Should we allow French clubs to go deep into debt and head for bankruptcy so they can become competitive in the Champions League? I don't think so," Braillard said. "I think we can find other solutions. But the other European nations perhaps also need to reflect on the colossal debts of certain clubs which leave them totally fragile."

Others blame over-taxation and socialist President Francois Hollande's super tax on top earners for weakening clubs and driving away big-name players. A government-commissioned study this year found that for a player paid 1.8 million euros ($2.4 million), French clubs must pay an additional 504,000 euros ($662,000) in social security taxes. A German club would pay just 12,000 euros ($15,800), the report said.

There were hopes that France's hosting of the European Championship in 2016 will also boost its clubs. But Braillard said new or renovated stadiums in Lille, Marseille and Nice so far haven't significantly improved revenue for those teams and "haven't had the hoped-for effects."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland 4 Suspended
Kansas City 2
Baltimore - W. Chen 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Pineda
Kansas City - D. Duffy 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
Seattle - J. Paxton 6:07 PM
Toronto - J. Happ
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt 6:08 PM
Detroit - K. Lobstein
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Houston - N. Tropeano 7:05 PM
Texas - D. Holland
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
Arizona - J. Collmenter 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 0 2nd Prd
NY Rangers 0
Detroit 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Washington 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
St. Louis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Time left for great deals

Bid thru Sept. 29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close