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Football: “Baptized the “barbarians” ten years ago, investment funds will play a… crucial role”

VSOop of dispatch, Thursday April 4, of the hearings of the Senate commission of inquiry into the new financing circuits of the “beautiful game”. The senators will try to “understand the place that investment funds take in the football economy” for several years, and begin their work by questioning the economists Luc Arrondel and Richard Duhautois, authors of a sum in three volumes, Football Money (Editions Rue d’Ulm, 2022-2023).

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The Senate wanted to focus on the sale, in 2023, of rights (TV, etc.) by the Professional Football League to CVC Capital Partners. In exchange for the lifetime payment of 13% of the league’s revenues, the Luxembourg investment fund injected 1.5 billion euros into a sector boomed by the crisis linked to Covid-19 and the withdrawal of the broadcaster Mediapro in 2020 But the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office was seized of a contentious aspect of the agreement, and the senators had to broaden the scope of their investigation so as not to encroach on the judicial domain.

What role does the private equity (or investment capital), beyond a contribution of funds to the club? The attraction of funds for French football dates back to the early 2010s. After investing in the United States and England, they became interested in France (Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Lorient, Toulouse, Angers…), doubling their budgets to represent three quarters of them today. These financiers are often there to optimize the club brand and the value of the players, before reselling them at a capital gain, as in their other investments.

“Deadly Agreement”

Senator Michel Savin (Les Républicains, Isère), rapporteur of the commission, wonders “if this new trend will not harm the economic future of clubs”. A certainty, for the former president of Olympique de Marseille Christophe Bouchet, in the “deal” with CVC: “It’s a deadly agreement for French football”he declared to So Foot in November 2023, recalling that the German Bundesliga had rejected the funds under pressure from supporters and that the Spanish Liga had not signed the duration of the contract (fifty years), for a lower commission (8%) and without the agreement Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

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Named the “barbarians” ten years ago, the funds will still play a… crucial role. With the exception of PSG, all French clubs are potentially for sale”says Jean-Philippe Bescond, managing partner of the Lazard bank, interviewed by The world in January. A Parisian club which, with more than 801 million euros in turnover, has climbed onto the podium of European heavyweights in 2023, behind Real Madrid and Manchester City.

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