Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed that their scouts illegally racially profiled young players as part of their recruitment process.
They were asked to list whether the youngsters were French, north African, West Indian or African, allegedly in order to limit the number of black recruits, according to the investigative news website Mediapart, citing documents from the Football Leaks dossier. Collection of information on an individual’s race, religion or ethnicity is forbidden in France.
Mediapart said the practice was carried out from 2013 until spring this year. PSG confirmed racial profiling took place but said the club’s management was “not aware” of it and that it was done in secret.
In a statement, the club said: “Paris Saint-Germain reaffirms its firm condemnation of all forms of discrimination, racism or ethnic monitoring. Forms with illegal content were used between 2013 and 2018 by the training centre’s department responsible for player scouting outside the Île-de-France region. These forms were introduced at the sole personal initiative of the head of this department.”
Mediapart claims questions over racial profiling at PSG were first raised in March 2014 after a talented 13-year-old player, Yann Gboho, caught the attention of the club’s scouts while playing for FC Rouen in Normandy.
During his evaluation four months earlier, a PSG scout filled in a form in which there were four choices as to the origin of players: French, north African, West Indian and African. The scout allegedly listed Gboho – who was born in the Ivory Coast – as “West Indian”.
The scout, Serge Fournier, reportedly told Mediapart that PSG “didn’t want us to recruit players born in Africa, because you are never sure of their date of birth”. Fournier added the electronic form “should have said ‘white’ instead of ‘French’” as all the players recommended for signing were French.
At a meeting on 14 March 2014, Marc Westerloppe, responsible for recruiting in France outside of Paris at the time, is alleged to have spoken of a “problem with the direction the club is going in”. “We need more diversity. There are too many West Indians and Africans in Paris,” he is reported to have said.
This caused an angry exchange with Pierre Reynaud, in charge of recruitment in the Paris region, who insisted: “It must not be a question of ethnicity but talent.”
A complaint was made to the club’s human resources department, said Mediapart, which resulted in Westerloppe being summoned to a meeting in June 2014 during which he dismissed the accusations as “false, malicious and stupid”. He was not disciplined by the club. Westerloppe now works in youth development at Rennes, where Gboho plays and where PSG’s former sports director Olivier Létang is president.
In their statement PSG said that when made aware of the racial profiling last month they launched an internal investigation to “understand how such practices could have existed and to decide on the necessary measures to be taken”. “As the emergence of the club’s young talents proves, scouting is decided solely on a skills and behavioural basis,” the statement added.
In 2011 Mediapart revealed an alleged attempt by the French Football Federation to limit the number of black and north African players in its youth scheme.