PSG's Al-Khelaifi in firing line as French clubs battle for TV revenue
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Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi has been accused of becoming embroiled in a conflict of interest in a dispute over television payments to French football clubs facing a financial crisis in the coronavirus pandemic.
Al-Khelaifi, 46, is the public face of the Qatari ownership of PSG which has transformed them into one of Europe's most powerful clubs.
He is also the head of BeIN Media Group, who as one of the chief broadcasters of France's Ligue 1 have withheld the latest payment due to clubs because of the ongoing suspension of the season. Canal Plus, who pay the most for broadcast rights, have done the same.
Despite that, Al-Khelaifi has been mandated by the French league (LFP) along with three other club presidents to lead negotiations with Canal Plus in an attempt to convince them to pay up.
The president of the company who have bought the rights to show Ligue 1 games from next season blasted Al-Khelaifi in an interview published on Thursday.
"I don't understand how Nasser can be leading a negotiation when he is an interested party," Jaume Roures of the Spanish group Mediapro told sports daily L'Equipe.
"It is incomprehensible. The attitude of Canal Plus and beIN towards the league is also Nasser's attitude. He is not a third party who has come out of nowhere."
BeIN held back paying an instalment of 42 million euros to the LFP for the rights to broadcast games. That was after Canal Plus said they would not pay 110 million euros ($121 million) due this month.
The money due from Canal Plus represents 15 percent of the total broadcast money for the season in Ligue 1, and includes 43 million euros due for matches shown before the campaign was suspended on March 13.
Mediapro, which is Chinese-owned, bought up the bulk of the domestic rights to Ligue 1 for four years starting next season. The total deal is worth a record 1.15 billion euros a year, with beIN paying a minority of that amount.
Viewers wishing to watch beIN Sports will need a Canal Plus subscription. Roures called it a "strategic alliance" between the two companies.
- Crisis very real -
The crisis is very real for the clubs, who are left wondering what will happen if the season does not resume.
Payments from television amounted to 36 percent of total revenue for Ligue 1 teams last season, by far their biggest source of income.
However, leading voices at other clubs have dismissed fears of a conflict of interest in the case of Al-Khelaifi.
"Nasser did not put himself forward. We asked him. We need to be clear," said Lille president Gerard Lopez.
Al-Khelaifi's own club also risk taking by far the biggest hit if no more games are played -- L'Equipe claimed PSG could lose 215 million euros between the loss of projected gate receipts and Champions League revenues.
PSG are the fifth richest club in the world going by the latest Deloitte Football Money League with revenue of 635.9 million euros last year, but their annual wage bill is an estimated 337 million euros.
"This is a very important period. The club's future is not at stake, but our room for manoeuvre in the future is," said one club source, and they could certainly do with the broadcast money.
Meanwhile, Roures insists his company will survive the impact of the current crisis, although it does not even yet have a channel set up to show games.
"I am not saying there is no impact, but we always respect our contracts," he told L'Equipe.
© 2020 AFP