Embattled Marseille owner Frank McCourt denies sale rumors, plus other stories you may have missed this week
It has been another mad week in the world of European soccer and France has been a hub of much of that activity with Olympique de Marseille descending into anarchy before Andre Villas-Boas offered his resignation at Stade Velodrome and was later suspended with a view to being sacked.
OM could not stay out of the alternative headlines for long as owner Frank McCourt was forced to make a second official statement in the space of a few days with rumors over a potential sale of France’s only UEFA Champions League winners to a Saudi Arabian group growing louder.
Ligue 1 itself is suddenly more attractive now that the messy domestic television rights situation has been taken care of at least until the end of the season and former Girondins de Bordeaux Chairman of the Board Joseph DaGrosa Jr. told CBS Sports exclusively why it is a good time to buy into soccer right now.
Here are this week’s stories that might have slipped under the radar.
McCourt denies Saudi OM deal
Marseille’s eventful week has shown no signs of slowing down ahead of Sunday’s Classique against bitter rivals Paris Saint-Germain with the fans storming the Commanderie training facility followed by the AVB farce and then a 2-2 Ligue 1 draw with RC Lens after leading 2-0.
McCourt, who has owned the club since 2016, has now had to release an official statement rejecting reports that a deal is close that would see Al Waleed bin Talal Al Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family that previously targeted Newcastle United of the Premier League through the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, take over from the American and begin a new era on the Canebiere.
McCourt was firm on the topic and “categorically denies the misleading and deleterious rumors about the sale of OM. The sole purpose of these rumors is to destabilize a project in which (he) has been personally involved in for more than four years.”
“My commitment to OM, its employees, the city and the people of Marseille is total,” he said in the communique. “I will remain, along with the entire management of OM and its president, Jacques-Henri Eyraud, committed to seeing this project through to the end.
“We owe it to OM and its history, past, present and future. I also wonder about the origin of these repeated campaigns of disinformation and wonder who benefits from these manipulations.”
Could there be another twist in the unfolding soccer drama that is Marseille?
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Canal+ rescue Ligue 1 rights
For months, French soccer has been dealing with the existential threat posed by Mediapro’s failed lucrative TV rights deal that threw Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 into jeopardy and forced the LFP to find a new domestic distributor for France to be able to watch its own league on a weekly basis.
After much back and forth between the league and various channels and even streaming services, French football has returned to its “traditional partner” for an amount well below the now irrelevant figures from the Mediapro deal.
Canal’s return, as inevitable as it was, gives French soccer some short-term stability until at least the end of the 2020-21 season which will enable potential business to be done — such as Marseille — and for a long-term home to be found.
In the call for offers this week, Amazon Prime Video emerged as a “pleasant surprise” and that could signal a move in a similar direction to the Premier League who already have the American streaming service on board.
For now, clubs can rest assured that they will at least make it to the end of the season on significantly reduced sums of money and start modernizing their plans for the future after the double whammy of Mediapro’s failure and Brexit swallowing the promise of regular inflated transfer paydays.
Kapital Football Group aim to emulate City
Joe DaGrosa of Kapital Football Group (KFG) told CBS Sports exclusively that he believes that now is an ideal time to invest in soccer because of the “unique” opportunities presented in “challenging circumstances.”
“COVID offers an opportunity to do things on a more accelerated basis but for less financially,” he said during a lengthy chat. “These are unique times right now. We think there is an opportunity over the short to medium term with clubs and players but that the pendulum will ultimately swing back the other way as it is a great sport and great business.
“We want to put our ‘ecosystem’ in place now so that we can emerge as a major player in the global soccer game when it is a seller’s market for talent again.
“There are very few businesses that can stand the test of time. You can pick almost any soccer club and they have a multi-generational history. There are very few businesses that can stick around for 100 years, or more, or are likely to be around in the next 100 years.
“Soccer is the fastest growing sport in the world, and it is a business that we do not believe will be rendered obsolete by technological changes. If anything, it will benefit from those changes. COVID obviously presents some very challenging circumstances for clubs, but it has also presented some very interesting opportunities.
“Many clubs are struggling and in need of an investor. We think that we can be good partners and that this is the right time to move.”
Starting with the Tahuichi Academy in Bolivia, DaGrosa’s KFG project aspires to be a “world-class soccer platform” similar to the City Football Group (CFG) but “unique in a number of respects” as a collection of clubs with “natural synergies” and investment in global academies.
Ultimately, DaGrosa and KFG hope to develop a “proprietary pipeline for our own club ecosystem” with around nine academies and an “anchor” club with three to five satellite clubs to give them the best “global footprint for sourcing talent” while also making a difference.
More on KFG’s ambitious goals next week.