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PSG hope Marseille takeover spurs competition

Normally, a football club wouldn’t be happy with a rival being bought by an investor promising to pump in money. But PSG domination is so overwhelming in France that they are happy with Olympique Marseille having a new owner.

football Updated: Oct 21, 2016 18:27 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
PSG

Despite the exit of a couple of key players, Paris Saint-Germain remain the team to beat in France’s domestic competition. (AP)

Normally, a football club wouldn’t be happy with a rival being bought by an investor promising to pump in money. But Paris St Germain’s (PSG) domination is so overwhelming in France that the Ligue 1 champions are happy with Olympique Marseille, whom they host on Sunday, having a new owner.

“In terms of tradition, this is the biggest football game in France. It used to be a big rivalry but it is not anymore. But it could become again because they have a new owner and have just announced a new coach (Frenchman Rudy Garcia). Apparently, he (Frank McCourt) is ready to invest which would be good for the championship (Ligue 1) because that would create new rivalries. If you have four-five teams in contention for the championship, it would make the league attractive to the international audience and help it compete with other leagues,” said Frederic Longuepee, the deputy general manager of PSG here on Friday.

He said that while PSG is happy to be an ambassador for Ligue 1, the lack of competition is a deterrent to gaining wider international acceptance. That’s an advantage the Premiership has also over the Bundesliga and La Liga, especially in Asia, he said. “So it’s a good thing that foreign investors are taking shares if not buying an entire club (in France),” Longuepee told a group of media from different Asian countries.

Last season, PSG were 32 points ahead of second-placed Lyon in Ligue 1. Since being taken over by Qatar Sports Investment in 2011, their men’s football has won 13 trophies including all four in the 2015-16 domestic season. It has led to PSG growing as a brand — from being valued around $70m in 2011, it is now, according to Brand Finance, an independent business valuation consultancy, at $800m, said Longuepee — but it has also led to them becoming somewhat like the Harlem Globetrotters, the only difference being they don’t just play exhibition games.

The Ligue 1’s lack of popularity abroad is also a reason why PSG are looking to be the first movers in e-sports. The club launched its e-sports initiative at the Parc des Princes on Thursday evening. They will be taking part in the European second division of the League of Legends, a multi-player online game, and field a team in the ESWC (Electronic Sports World Cup) that will be held in Paris next week.

No elite club in Europe is doing it on this scale, said Fabien Allegre, PSG’s brand diversification director. PSG have got into a joint-venture with a gaming company to groom its players.

With regards to India, PSG don’t have any plan apart from running its existing football schools in Gurugram and Bengaluru, said Longuepee. But it could change after the 2017 under-17 World Cup, he said. Longuepee said PSG could also look at joining the All India Football Federation to help the national teams or buy shares in an Indian Super League franchise.

The writer is in Paris on invitation from PSG.