For months, it seemed, the feud between the leader of Spain’s top soccer league and the president of the Qatar-owned French team Paris St.-Germain has played out noisily, and in public.
Javier Tebas, the outspoken president of La Liga, would repeatedly criticize Paris St.-Germain and its Qatari leaders, accusing them of flagrantly breaking European soccer’s financial rules. And infrequently, the P.S.G. president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, would respond to Tebas along with his own accusations, questioning the health of Spanish soccer, or trade barbs with him within the news media and in speeches.
The more high-stakes fight, it seems, was going down behind the scenes.
This week, after almost two months of wrangling, Tebas and La Liga secured a court order to freeze tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars of the assets of beIN Media Group, the Qatar-owned broadcast network headed by al-Khelaifi, in a dispute over unpaid broadcast-rights payments.
BeIN, one of the crucial prolific spenders on broadcast rights on the earth, owns the rights to La Liga matches in swaths of Asia and the Middle East in addition to some key European markets. But based on a court document reviewed by The Latest York Times, the network had to this point did not pay greater than 50 million euros it owed the Spanish league for this season’s games.
Within the 11-page order, the court said it had frozen the assets due to risk that the funds could be repatriated to Qatar.
BeIN Media Group learned concerning the case, and the order freezing its assets, from a Latest York Times reporter. “Our popularity is founded on a long time of serious investment, best-in-class broadcasting, long-term and trusted relationships with rights-holders, and a track record of payment,” the corporate said in a press release.
The beIN spokesman said 10 million euros of the debt had been repaid on Oct. 5. But the corporate said it might not discuss its private, contractual discussions with La Liga or any rights-holder, adding, “That will not be how business must be conducted, definitely not by skilled and dignified institutions.”
The outstanding debt represents only a fraction of the cash beIN Media Group has paid over time to La Liga, with industry estimates suggesting the whole amount contracted between the league and the network to be as much as $1.5 billion since 2018.
Delays in payments to sports organizations usually are not unusual, either, with broadcasters often known to barter payment plans with their partners. What is rare is the lengths La Liga has gone to make sure it receives the cash it says it’s owed. BeIN continues to broadcast La Liga games across its networks.
The case is for certain to bring renewed give attention to the influence in soccer of Qatar, which along with hosting next month’s World Cup also plays a number one role in European soccer through its free-spending ownership of P.S.G., the dominant force in French soccer, and beIN, which has paid out billions of dollars to amass the published rights to a few of soccer’s top competitions.
But it surely also will shine a highlight on the influence of al-Khelaifi, whose simultaneous roles because the chairman of P.S.G. and beIN Media Group and as a board member of European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, have made him one of the crucial influential figures in the game.
Al-Khelaifi has for years emphatically denied the accusation that he wields an excessive amount of power given his various roles; he has said that previously, he sought legal advice every time such conflicts have arisen and that he repeatedly recuses himself from meetings wherein his various roles could clash.
Tebas told The Latest York Times that beIN has been delaying payments since last yr, and he rejected the network’s claim that it was facing financial challenges, saying, “I don’t imagine them.”
As an alternative, Tebas suggested, the broadcaster is attempting to renegotiate its deals with La Liga, which cover territories stretching from France to the Middle East and Asia to Latest Zealand.
But Tebas also suggested there was one other motive for the missed payments: He said they were an effort to pressure him to relent in his criticisms of al-Khelaifi. In June, for instance, Tebas filed a grievance with UEFA wherein he accused P.S.G. and Manchester City, one other team backed by a Gulf state, of being in “continuous breach” of the organization’s financial regulations.
“He knows exactly what he’s doing,” Tebas said of al-Khelaifi. “He’s attempting to get to the purpose where clubs will tell the president of the league we prefer to get the cash and have you ever talk less.”
BeIN made its disdain for Tebas clear in its response. “If we ran our operations reacting to certain executive’s comments on others inside the sports industry, we wouldn’t be in business,” the corporate said.
Much of Tebas’s fury about P.S.G., and al-Khelaifi, stems from the French club’s ability to lure star players from La Liga, spending that he contends has unfairly altered the sport’s economics. In 2017, P.S.G. broke the world transfer record when it paid 222 million euros, on the time greater than double the best amount previously paid for a player, to amass the Brazilian star Neymar from Barcelona. It also managed to lure Lionel Messi to Paris in 2021 after Barcelona couldn’t afford to renew his contract. And earlier this yr, P.S.G. paid the French star Kylian Mbappé a signing-on fee of greater than $100 million to reject the overtures of Real Madrid.
While other soccer leagues and executives have privately expressed concerns concerning the spending by state-owned teams, Tebas has been by far probably the most outspoken. “People in football are cowards,” Tebas said Wednesday, explaining why others haven’t been as outspoken as he has concerning the market-altering influence of teams like P.S.G. and Manchester City. “Football executives all the time need to be certain they’ve good relations and eat well as an alternative of stepping outside their comfort zone.”
Al-Khelaifi has had little use for Tebas’s critiques; in June, he said he wouldn’t take lessons from Tebas, suggesting what the Spaniard needed to say was not relevant.
For UEFA, the running dispute between two of its most outstanding voices is proving to be awkward because each Tebas and al-Khelaifi are members of its executive board. The most recent court fight will do little to lower the temperature, and it will not be over.
The ruling freezing beIN’s assets, based on the document, is barely a brief measure; the court will hold a full hearing on the merits of the case, however the timetable is unclear.