In Middle Of Euro Crisis, Top End Of European Football Is Booming
Amidst a Eurozone financial crisis that has brought protestors to the streets, there is "one activity where business is booming: the top end of European football," according to Matt Scott of the London TELEGRAPH. Nowhere is it more evident than at Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and Russian Premier league side Zenit St. Petersburg. Both clubs have "stunned the football world" with their transfer spending. It cost PSG more than £50M ($80.4M) in the summer to bring in the AC Milan duo of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva from Milan; Zenit spent £64M ($102.9M) to acquire Hulk and Witsel from Portuguese clubs Porto and Benfica. Laurent Perrin knows PSG "better than most" as the chief correspondent covering the club at Le Parisien. His explanation for why Qatar Sports Investment, a sovereign-wealth fund controlled by the Qatari crown prince, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani has spent so much is simple. Perrin: "Before everything it is for the image of Qatar. They have calculated their every investment. They know it is virtually impossible to make money from football. But they also know that football is the best way to promote an image." Qatar’s French-football interests extend beyond PSG. National broadcaster Al-Jazeera has bought up the rights to Ligue 1, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League "through a subsidiary pay-TV channel it has set up in France: Be In Sports." Political patronage "also seems to have benefited Zenit." In its case, the money has come from Gazprom, "the jewel in the Russian bear’s natural-resources crown," which is both the shirt sponsor and 100% owner of the club. The Kremlin holds a majority stake in Gazprom. The strategy seems to be to project Russia’s "financial and sporting might through the medium of club football," just as the Olympic Games did for the Soviet Union (TELEGRAPH, 10/3).