INSIDE STORY: PSG have transformed under QSI’s huge investment

Martyn Thomas 10:55 25/05/2015
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  • The price of success: PSG defender Zoumana Camara hoists the Ligue 1 trophy into the air on Saturday night.

    “Paris is not always No1…” read the rather playful headline on Paris Saint-Germain’s official website last Wednesday night as the club were heralded as the biggest payers in world sport.

    Earlier that day, the Global Sports Salaries Survey 2015, a report commissioned by ESPN The Magazine and carried out by Sporting Intelligence, had claimed the average weekly wage for a first-team player at the Parc des Princes was a cool £101,898 (Dh586,257).

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    That figure, equating to an average yearly salary of just under £5.3 million (Dh30.5m), saw them top the global league table ahead of Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona and baseball franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    PSG suggested in the statement that the salaries had been “over-estimated”,  but Nick Harris, editor of, is confident that his team’s numbers – taking in the 2013/14 season – are correct. 

    Indeed, L’Equipe reported in March that the wage bill for the current season would run to €359m (Dh1.5 billion).

    What cannot be disputed, though, is the impact Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) have had on the fortunes of the Parisian outfit since gaining control of the club in the summer of 2011.

    Forbes rank Ibrahimovic as the world's 12th richest athlete, earning a Dh51 million salary after tax.

    PSG had won just two Ligue 1 titles in their history before the takeover, and had finished 16th, sixth, 13th and fourth in the four seasons preceding it.

    Since QSI came on board, though, they have claimed the last three championships and could yet finish the current campaign with a first-ever treble.

    The catalyst of that success has undoubtedly been the money pumped into the club by QSI, who have been able to attract the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to the French capital.

    “A bit like Manchester City, they’ve obviously consciously gone out to do an accelerated investment programme, spending quite a lot of money on players and obviously they’ve got some really good players now who command a higher salary,” Harris told Sport360. “If you go from a starting point of £117m (2011/12) to close to €360m, that’s pretty obvious that the wage bill of the club has absolutely soared in recent years. 

    “I just think that’s a function of the fact that they’ve come in, they’re very wealthy owners, they want to succeed so they’ve ploughed money into buying good players, and obviously good players cost money.”

    Indeed as the survey highlights, QSI have spent £300m (Dh1.73bn) on transfer fees since buying an initial 70 per cent stake four years ago. That works out at an average of £20m (Dh115m) for the 15 they have signed who commanded a fee, and has seen them sanctioned under UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. But, whatever the cost off the pitch, it has definitely led to success on it.

    Alongside the hat-trick of Ligue 1 titles PSG have racked up two Coupes de la Ligue, the same number of Trohpees des Champions and face second-tier Auxerre in the final of the Coupe de France on Saturday.

    Moreover, they have had more immediate success in the Champions League than Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City, with Ibrahimovic helping to propel them into the quarter-finals in each of the last three seasons.
    According to Harris, 
    winning on the pitch breeds success off it as it builds a global fanbase. Evidence of this is contained within the Global Salaries Survey, in the section that deals with social media. It may not have garnered as many headlines, but it is instructive of where PSG rank in terms of popularity around the world.

    In terms of ‘social fans’ they are 11th with 20m, ahead of a number of renowned sports clubs, including the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Juventus and the Dallas Cowboys.

    “PSG are a giant on a continental scale, not just within France” – Johnson

    “Over the last couple of years, they have become a successful club that’s winning things with star names,” Harris said. “You’ve got some of the most iconic, storied, successful teams in the history of their sport, who are all undeniably globally-known brands and PSG are right in the thick of that. From a point where pre-2011 they had won two titles in their history and were not a global force.”

    He added: “To be in that group of the top 12 social media clubs in the world, this is the whole of global sport. That’s quite an achievement.

    “They’re ahead of Juventus, for goodness sake, who are in the Champions League final.”

    That newfound popularity and global reach has helped the club expand in commercial areas, too.

    On arriving at the Parc des Princes, QSI, club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and then-director of football, Leonardo, were shocked at exactly how much needed modernising – the kit deal with Nike included.

    PSG have enjoyed a long-standing association with the sportswear brand, but there was a feeling the €6.5m (Dh26.5m) they were being paid per season was too low.

    Having won their first league title in 19 years in 2013 – with David Beckham making a brief cameo – they began re-negotiations, and by December of that year had signed a new contract worth more than three times as much.

    Add to that a €25m (Dh102m) a season shirt deal with Emirates and their share of record TV revenues – a new €726.5m (Dh2.9bn) a year Ligue 1 deal kicks in from 2016 – and it is easy to see how they have become so successful. But is their financial power good for French football? According to L’Equipe, PSG’s annual budget is more than three times bigger than the second wealthiest club, Monaco.

    “They’re seen as something positive for Ligue 1 and French football,” Paris-based French football expert, Jonathan Johnson explained. “The thing with French football is, a lot of people within the country and also from outside have lost interest over the years because they fear it’s not really a league that is capable of attracting star talent, and PSG have changed that. 

    “They are a giant on a continental scale, not just within France. 

    “Being able to bring in iconic players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic of course is something French football wouldn’t have been able to dream of before the Qataris arrived in Paris.”

    FFP regulations look set to be relaxed next month when UEFA meet in Prague, meaning the spending of the likes of PSG, City and Chelsea could ignite again. But as Laurent Blanc’s side target the European success that will keep both their owners and commercial department happy, Harris believes Chelsea provide a blueprint for sustainability.

    “Chelsea were haemorrhaging money for the first seven or eight years of Roman Abramovich’s reign,” he said. “The success on the pitch is a direct result of the investment in the players and wages. It means that they do and they can command enormous sponsorship deals. 

    “People who have no alignment to Abramovich or his business interests want to be affiliated with Chelsea and put money in, because they have won the Champions League and four Premier League titles under Abramovich.”

    As QSI plot their next move, they would do well to take note.