PARIS // Five years after Qatar Sports Investment took charge and spent hundreds of millions on transfers, Paris Saint-Germain have wiped out the domestic opposition – but it has not killed off the French Ligue 1.
If Monaco fail to beat Stade de Reims tonight and PSG defeat Troyes away on Sunday, Laurent Blanc’s team will be crowned before Spring comes with eight games to spare as they will sit on an unassailable 25-point lead over their rivals from the principality.
The record from the five big leagues is held by Bayern Munich, who snatched the Bundesliga title on March 25, 2013 after 27 games in an 18-team league – France has 20 – and ended the season with a 25-point lead over Borussia Dortmund.
In 2013, a study by international consulting company Roland Berger found: “Over the past 10 years, the intensity of competition dwindled in all five leagues. The key reason is an imbalance in clubs’ funding options. The top teams are increasing the gap between themselves and the smaller teams. In some cases, the distance is considerable.”
The study, however, found that Ligue 1 was still an exciting league because the competition was tight throughout the season.
But that was three years ago. Now, PSG are running unopposed in France and having beaten Chelsea 4-2 on aggregate in the Uefa Champions League last 16 on Wednesday, reached the quarter-finals for the fourth year in succession.
Lyon, third in the Ligue 1 standings, dominated the French League from 2002, winning seven national titles in a row. But they now lag way behind PSG, with a €170 million (Dh684.8m) annual budget to the Qatar-backed club’s €490m.
“You have to accept the competition, accept to be leap-frogged by someone who is more powerful,” Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said last month.
“You have to kowtow and take the good from their domination, support them in the European competitions and find solutions.”
Lyon, with a first-class youth academy, can sometimes compete with PSG, having inflicted their only league defeat this season. Since January, they are the owners of their new Parc OL stadium, meaning they will increase their revenues significantly.
“We have invested a lot in this hoping to catch up in the mid-term,” Aulas said.
Monaco, backed by a Russian billionaire, could have competed, but the club has become a talent-selling machine with the likes of Geoffrey Kondogbia, Anthony Martial and James Rodriguez leaving after showing their class at Monaco.
Moreover, PSG’s star-studded squad, featuring the likes of Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Argentine winger Angel Di Maria and Brazil centre back Thiago Silva, has boosted the league’s (LFP) revenues.
For the 2016-2020 period, the LFP will get a €726.5m in TV rights. Some €480m of broadcasting rights abroad will end up in the LFP’s pockets for the 2016-2020 period compared to €195m between 2014-2018.
PSG’s dominance, however, must not last too long, an economist warned.
“If it goes on for a long period of time, people will get fed up and it could hurt the league’s economical attractiveness,” said Christophe Lepetit, of the Limoges university.
Meanwhile, PSG’s dominance helps France keep a decent Uefa coefficient, guaranteeing them three possible Champions League spots.
“We’re fighting with Portugal and Russia in the Uefa rankings. Who is bringing us points? PSG, obviously,” St Etienne president Bernard Caiazzo said.
PSG have Uefa’s seventh coefficient while the second French club, Lyon, lags in 27th place. France are fifth just ahead of Portugal and Russia.
“PSG are a gift,” said Renne manager Rolland Courbis. “Ligue 1 is already dying so imagine how it would be without them”
Their dominance, however, may be doomed to end, as Aulas stated last month after a Lyon women’s game.
“You could imagine that in the coming years Qataris may not renew their support. We’re seeing that gas and oil prices are going down,” he said.
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