Benefiting from the PSG ascent: Doing things the French football way
Please welcome to the FFW family Mr Igor Mladenovic. A French-Serbian living in Paris, a very knowledgeable writer whose work has featured on In Bed With Maradona and Slavic Football Union among others.
The ascent of PSG on the French and European football scene has been accompanied with constant criticism at the upstart behaviour displayed by the club’s Arab owners in their relentless quest for popularity and glory.
But while PSG is excoriated for spending their way to the top, little attention has been paid to greediness showed by the remainder of French football clubs and the French football authorities as they surf on the wave of petrodollars provided by the capital’s premier football club.
Initially distrustful of the impact of the Qataris’ swooshing investment in French Ligue 1’s dull establishment (left-wing newspaper Libération labelling the small Gulf state’s “appetite for glory” as one that will turn French football into a circus of “bling-bling football”, French football media and authorities have increasingly looked for ways to benefit from PSG’s extragavant expenditure, at the price of even more vulgar behaviour than that of the Arab owners they so vehemently attack.
In that vein, we went from Louis Nicollin (chairman of title-holders Montpellier HSC) downplaying Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s arrival at PSG as that of a player who “never impressed [him] be it in Italy or Spain” back in July, to him lamenting the absence of the Swedish superstar when PSG visited Mosson last November, because “it would have made [them] sell more tickets”.
More and more obviously, it looks like the French football top dogs have indeed adopted an opportunistic approach in the capital club’s shadow which goes further in terms of expedience than the behaviour adopted by the Qatari owners in Paris.
Another illustration of how French football has grown to behave even more opportunistically than the PSG owners they initially attacked is the way governing body the LFP (Ligue de Football Professionnel) refused, in conjunction with historical Ligue 1 broadcaster Canal+, to delay Paris Saint-Germain’s game at Bordeaux on Sunday in the wake of the death of staff member Nick Broad last week.
Broad (38), who was the club’s dietitian and had become a close collaborator of Carlo Ancelotti since the Italian’s stay at Chelsea, died in a tragic car accident last Friday on his way home after visiting centre-back Mamadou Sakho during the afternoon to give him diet advice.
PSG instantly lodged a formal request to the LFP for their game at Bordeaux, scheduled two days later, to be delayed in the wake of the tragedy, a request turned down by the LFP citing the impossibility of re-scheduling a game two days before it was due to take place. Just the same day, the LFP agreed to move its schedule forward for Sochaux’s game against Reims, exactly two days later, due to unfavourable meteorological conditions.
What was therefore acceptable for a snow-storm was unacceptable for the passing of a valued staff member who, although relatively anonymous to the outsider, played a significant part in PSG’s daily operations. For a governing body and public opinion who once lamented PSG’s creation of a star culture within French football to show so little empathy towards Nick Broad’s colleagues and friends is, arguably, filled with irony.
What’s more, the LFP cited the “full backing of [broadcasting channel] Canal+” in their decision to maintain PSG’s game on Sunday. Historically the number one football channel in France, Canal+ lost much of its Ligue 1 broadcasting rights to Al Jazeera-owned BeIN Sport channel (whose director is also the PSG President), retaining only the big Sunday night game for its prime time weekend broadcasting and only allowed to pick occasional other games (generally PSG’s).
Instead of offering French football fans an honest explanation involving Canal+ needing this single game (sold to them by the LFP) to make ends meet, the French governing body hid behind an alleged rule of impossibility to delay one game to mask the financial issues at stake.
To add insult to injury, Canal+ then proceeded to make a full use of PSG staff members and players being clearly distraught to make the game even more headline-grabbing. Cameras filming the players coming out of their bus with sad looks on their face, journalists asking them what it feels like to play on nights like these, and finally a zoom on Carlo Ancelotti’s tears during the minute of silence as many signs of Canal+’s opportunism to make the occasion even more telling and attract viewers with their lacrimae rerum (tears for things) take on an otherwise largely uneventful game which ended in PSG’s 1-0 victory sending them to the top of the table despite a visibly shaken team atmosphere of which Bordeaux was hoping to take advantage.
All in all, this particular occasion showed once more how relentlessly French football authorities and media, as well as other clubs, are trying to benefit PSG’s ascent, with behaviour even more questionable than that for which they blame the Parisians.