Saturday, August 05, 2017

€222 million soccer vanity project

Top French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) have just paid a record-smashing €222 million transfer fee to acquire Brazilian star Neymar from FC Barcelona.
Yes, Neymar is one of the best players in the world, up there with Messi and Ronaldo (and younger than either), but this is more than twice the previous record transfer, Manchester United's acquisition of Paul Pogba last year. To put it in some North American perspective, is is about C$330 million, an amount that would more than cover the combined player payrolls of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Maple Leafs.
PSG are a good team and the addition of Neymar gives them a good chance of winning a major trophy like the UEFA Champions League. Their attendance, sponsorship sales and merchandising will doubtless benefit too. But, unlike in North America where the profit motive rules professional sports, there are other forces at play here.
PSG are owned by Oryx Quatar Sports Investments, which is in turn controlled by Qatari emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, a very rich man fom whom €222 million is not that big a deal. Winning a prestigious soccer trophy would lend Qatar itself some serious prestige in the Middle East, something it desperately wants, mired as it is in an ongoing dispute with Saudi Arabia. Qatar also needs friends in high places, and France's position on the UN Security Council is a big attraction, and probably a subsidiary motivation in the deal. France also played a major part in helping Qatar secure the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a controversial decision which is still being talked about. And it doesn't hurt that the Qatari royal family own the company that broadcasts France's Ligue 1 and Champions League games on French television. A tangled web indeed.
But, as much as anything, and completely alien to the North American profit-motivated sports industry, the main impetus for the deal may be simply the glory that a resurgent PSG would reflect on Sheik Tamim. First and foremost, this record-breaking deal at just be a €222 million vanity project.

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