How to beat Financial Fair Play

Paris Saint-Germain have secured a huge deal with the Qatar Tourism Authority that will bring the Ligue 1 leaders more than €150 million over each of the next four seasons.

The agreement with the QTA, a body linked to the Qatari state that is aimed at promoting tourism in the Arab state, was revealed to French football’s financial watchdog, the DNCG, on Tuesday, Le Parisien reports. It is not a sponsorship agreement per se but a “vast publicity campaign intended to promote the image of Qatar”, the paper adds.

Retroactive for 2012, it will boost PSG’s coffers by €150 million for the current campaign, increasing progressively to a minimum of €200 million in its final season, 2015-2016. To put that figure into context €200 million is the entire annual revenue for a club like Liverpool – the 9th biggest earners in world football last year.

Let’s be honest, though, Qatar does needs some promotion. Just 60,514 hardy souls went on holiday to the Arab state (that’s the same number travelling to the Emirate each year that attend the Emirates stadium every two weeks) in 2012. Of those a mere 10,456 came from Europe. It’s reasonable to assume that perhaps a thousand or so came from France. So, there’s definitely scope for improvement. With a few hundred million euros spent on promotion, you can imagine that figure rising to, ooh, let me see, I’d say at least 2,000 a year. In terms of money spent on attracting tourists, this could be the worst promotional idea since Hoover offered free flights on every vacuum cleaner sale.

When you consider that London, which attracts about 15 million tourists each year, operates on a budget of just £11.7 million, you realise how implausible the idea that Qatar is really spending that money to promote tourism to its country.

No, this has nothing to do with promoting Qatar tourism and everything to do with creative accountancy.

Champions League

A fascinating Champions League draw has brought together some well-known names and some mouth watering ties in the first knockout round.

But, you knew all that, because 24 hours earlier UEFA carried out a dry run of the draw that produced exactly the same draw as the one carried out today in Nyon. Now, what are the chances of that happening?

Anyway, there are some intriguing ties to relish, none more so than the reunion between Sir Alex Ferguson and his old sparring partner, Jose Mourinho. It will have been a draw that neither man wanted; for Ferguson, time is running out if he wishes to add to his modest tally of two European Cups, while for Mourinho, who has more or less conceded the Spanish league title, this competition has assumed huge significance.

This match also sees the return to Old Trafford of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno acknowledged that it would be a special evening for the Portuguese forward.

“I am sure it is going to be special game for him,” Butragueno told Sky Sports. “He’s a great professional so I am sure he is going to do his best to help Real Madrid to qualify. But yes, going back there is going to be very special for him.”

Champions League round of 16 draw:

Galatasaray v FC Schalke

Celtic v Juventus

Arsenal v Bayern Munich

Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund

AC Milan v Barcelona

Real Madrid v Manchester United

Valencia v Paris St Germain

FC Porto v Malaga

Europa League

The draw was also made for the last 16 and 32 rounds of this season’s Europa League.

There are some intriguing fixtures not least Liverpool’s trip to Zenit St Petersburg, where Luis Suarez will be guaranteed a warm welcome by the discriminating home support.

Europa League last-32 draw:

BATE Borisov v Fenerbahce

Inter Milan v Cluj

Levante v Olympiakos

Zenit St Petersburg v Liverpool

Dynamo Kiev v FC Bordeaux

Bayer Leverkusen v Benfica

Newcastle v FC Metalist Kharkiv

Stuttgart v Genk

Atletico Madrid v Rubin Kazan

Ajax v Steaua Bucharest

FC Basel v Dnipro

Anzhi Makhachkala v Hannover

Sparta Prague v Chelsea

Borussia Monchengladbach v Lazio

Tottenham v Lyon

Napoli v Plzen

Last-16 draw:

Napoli or Viktoria Plzen v BATE Borisov or Fenerbache

Leverkusen or Benfica v Dynamo Kiev or Bordeaux

Anzhi Makhachkala or Hannover v Newcastle or Metalist Kharkiv

Stuttgart or Genk v Monchengladbach or Lazio

Tottenham or Lyon v Inter Milan or Cluj

Levante or Olympiakos v Atletico Madrid or Rubin Kazan

Basel or Dnipro v Zenit St Petersburg or Liverpool

Ajax or Steaua Bucharest v Sparta Prague or Chelsea

Living in the past

Zenit St Petersburg fans who want non-white and gay players excluded from the Russian team are “living in another century”, says Anzhi Makhachkala defender Christopher Samba.

Responding to the call by a Zenit fans group to refrain from signing black players, Samba was scathing about their request.

“I’m not surprised. Everybody knows Zenit supporters are no good and racist,” Samba told BBC Radio 5 live.

“They are living in another century. It’s a sad day for Russian football.”

He added: “In this time we have different communities and countries that constitute teams. If they can’t accept that then they are never going to progress.”

However, the Congo-Brazzaville international insists there is no prospect of black players boycotting matches following the fans’ open letter.

“Boycotting, why? Because fans make statement they don’t want black players. No. Black players should fight for the good ones – not the idiots,” he said.

“It’s really sad. It’s slowing down the process of Russian football being a better league. I hope the Russian federation do the necessary to sanction it.”

Football goal of the day

Just days after he scored an astonishing overhead kick against Napoli, Panagiotis Kone repeated the trick against the same opponents – this time in the Coppa Italia.

Futsal goal of the day

Truly remarkable goal scored by Futsal veteran Falcao which sees him improvise a flick over the keeper’s head with his back to goal.

Quote of the day

“[It will be a] great opportunity for our fans to see Cristiano again and also for me to meet up with Jose again – I’ll need to order some good wine.” 

Looking ahead to Manchester United’s Champions League tie against Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson is already planning to drown his sorrows.

Match fixing verdict overturned

A German court ordered a partial retrial for two Croatian men found guilty in a match-fixing scandal.

Ante Sapina and Marijo Cvrtak were sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison last year for their part in the fixing of more than 20 games that included a qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup.

Prosecutors complained that the verdict by a regional court in the western city of Bochum didn’t consider the seriousness of the fraud committed by the men, and argued that Sapina’s deeds should be considered organized crime. Sapina’s lawyer, meanwhile, claimed that the Bochum court didn’t properly credit his client’s cooperation with authorities, which should have led to a reduced sentence.

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe agreed with the complaints and sent the case back to the lower court on Thursday. The retrial is unlikely to reverse the guilty verdicts but, somewhat bizarrely, could result in their sentences being lengthened or shortened.

One of the games fixed by Sapina and Cvrtak was the 2010 World Cup qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland in September 2009, when the referee was bribed.

Sapina testified that he traveled to Sarajevo to meet with a Bosnian referee and arrange for the otherwise meaningless qualifying match to be fixed.

Referee Novo Panic agreed to ensure two goals would be scored in the second half. The match ended in a 1-1 draw with both goals coming in the second half. Other fixed games include a Champions League qualifier between Debrecen of Hungary and Fiorentina of Italy and several Europa League matches, as well as games in domestic leagues in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Turkey, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Canada.

Hearts broken

Hearts have raised more than £1 million by selling shares to fans but the Scottish Premier League club warned supporters that its financial crisis was not over.

“The club is still in a perilous position with a near £800,000 pound shortfall between now and the end of the season,” the Edinburgh team said in a statement.

Hearts urged fans to help make up the shortfall by turning out in large numbers for forthcoming home matches at their Tynecastle stadium and buying tickets for a League Cup semi-final with Inverness in January.

Hearts had been hoping to raise up to £1.79 million pounds through the share sale, but only £1.05 million had come in when the offer closed on Wednesday.

Fingers crossed for their continuing survival.


Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has undergone throat surgery again Thursday after a tumor on a saliva gland reappeared.

The 44-year-old coach is to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy for up to six weeks. The club said Vilanova might return to the sidelines while continuing treatment.

Assistant coach Jordi Roura, who has been on the coaching staff since 2009, will coach the team for Saturday’s Spanish league game at Valladolid.

”Yesterday was a hard day, but (Vilanova) came to the dressing room and explained everything to us and boosted our spirits,” captain Carles Puyol said. ”He hadn’t even left yet and he was saying he couldn’t wait to be back. Today we feel better because the news is good. We have to keep playing the same way, train as hard as we can.”

Puyol said the transition to Roura should be seamless.

”He has been working with us for years. He knows the team perfectly,” Puyol said. ”Our way of doing things won’t change. We are in good hands.”

Vilanova had surgery to remove a tumor from a saliva gland in November 2011 when he was Pep Guardiola’s assistant. Vilanova had chemotherapy and radiotherapy at that time and returned to the squad 15 days later.