Bahrain among potential new investors for Paris Football Club

The president and owner of the club, Pierre Ferracci, close to Emmanuel Macron, met the son of the King of Bahrain in March. The Elysee ensures that there has been “no intervention by the President of the Republic”.

Almost ten years after the acquisition of Paris-Saint-Germain by the Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) fund, will the Paris Football Club (PFC) open its capital to a shareholder – minority – from the Gulf? According to information from L’Equipe and Le Monde , Prince Nasser ben Hamed Al-Khalifa, one of the sons of the King of Bahrain, is among the potential candidates for an entry into the capital of the capital’s second professional club, ten -7th in the Ligue 2 standings at the end of the 2019-2020 season (truncated).

Pierre Ferracci, owner and president of Paris FC since 2012, met the Bahraini prince in early March, as the independent journalist Romain Molina revealed , in a location that has remained unknown. Contacted by Le Monde , Mr. Ferracci explains “discussing for a long time with a potential large-scale European investor”, but he refuses to comment on the possibility that the Bahrain archipelago will enter the capital of the PFC. “In the social as in football, I do not say anything about the negotiations, and even less about the interlocutors that I have in front of me” , argues the leader of the consulting group Alpha, which works as well with the social committees and economic (ex-CE) than with management.

Mr. Ferracci should already formalize, in the week of July 20, the identity of a new shareholder. One thing is certain, “the majority of the capital will remain in my hands”, specifies the majority shareholder of Paris FC, at the level, for the moment, of approximately 95% – for a total budget of approximately 14.5 million euros.

In January, in an interview with Le Monde , he declared: “I consider that the club should capitalistically have foundations of control on a regional, national and European basis. “ The prospect that a country outside of Europe invests in the club ” does not invalidate “ this statement, he continues today, provided that this new investor remains in the minority.

According to our information, the American investment fund RedBird has already tried to take over the club. Before turning to Toulouse, relegated to Ligue 2. In addition, City Football Group, the UAE fund owner of Manchester City and managed by a close friend of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, would also have, during the period of confinement, attempted an approach. Contacted, RedBird and City Football Group have not yet followed up.

Diplomatic-sports partnership projects

What is the point of betting on a Ligue 2 club with one of the lowest attendance in the championship (barely more than 2,300 spectators on average last season, in a Charléty stadium which can hold eight times more), in a city where the Qatari version of PSG crushes everything?

In addition to the attractiveness of the capital, the Corsican leader emphasizes his training center in Orly (Val-de-Marne). “The crisis [due to Covid-19] that football is going through will put the issues of training back to the fore, because resources are likely to dry up everywhere: TV rights, transfers, sponsorship, ticketing. “

Without specifying whether he was at the initiative or at the reception, the leader assures us that he has been thinking “for about a year” of diplomatic-sports partnership projects with various countries: “four in Europe, two outside Europe ”. C es partnerships could “be part of a much broader context than football, which could also be that of economic, cultural and scientific relations between the two countries,” he said.

How did Pierre Ferracci come into contact with Prince Nasser ben Hamed Al-Khalifa? Close to Emmanuel Macron – his son Marc, special adviser to the Ministry of Labor, was the President of the Republic’s wedding witness, and vice versa – did the leader benefit from the diplomatic networks of the Head of State to bring closer to the royal family of Bahrain? Pierre Ferracci denies the “fantasies” about a possible mediation of the Elysee.

The Elysée cabinet, through its sports advisor, Cyril Mourin, assures the World that “no intervention by the President [of the Republic] has been brought to [his] knowledge on this file, while ‘ [he] would have intended to be associated with such a request. “

He also specifies that no convention for the development of sport has been signed recently between France and Bahrain, according to information from the Ministry of Sports and the French Embassy in Manama. The most recent convention, initialed in 1980, concerned “tourist cooperation” .

A prince suspected of torture

Today, three years after the severance of diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar, Bahrain is trying to enter the long-distance race (s) in sports diplomacy. The monarchy has already acquired a football club in Spain, since December 2019: that of Cordoba, which plays only in the third national division. It also hosts a Formula 1 Grand Prix and also has an international cycling team, Bahrain-McLaren.

As for Nasser ben Hamed Al-Khalifa, at 33, the Bahraini prince, also president of the National Olympic Committee of the monarchy, has already made a name for himself in the world of sport. Notably for having participated in the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, despite protests from non-governmental organizations . Several of them, including the International Federation for Human Rights, then demanded his arrest in France. They accused him of having ordered, or even of having carried out himself, acts of torture on political dissidents during the revolt which shook his country, in 2011, following the “Arab Spring”.