Paris Saint-Germain said they are investigating instances of ethnic profiling in scouting materials for youth players after a report revealed the French club had collected the information from 2013-2018.
In their latest Football Leaks update, Mediapart reported that between 2013-18, PSG’s recruiters outside of the Paris region included an “origin” section in their scouting reports that listed “African, Caribbean, French and Maghreb” as options.
PSG confirmed that “these forms were introduced at the sole personal initiative of the head of this department” before detailing that an internal investigation was launched in October “to understand how such practices could have existed” and “decide on the necessary measures to be taken.”
Mediapart used the example of the non-recruitment of Yann Gboho, an under-13 midfielder with Rouen in 2014 who was signed by Rennes one year later and is now in their youth academy, to illustrate the misuse of the information.
Marc Westerloppe, PSG’s domestic recruitment chief, was quoted as saying during a meeting in 2014 that there were “too many West Indians and Africans in Paris” and that “it was a shame to be scouting the same profile of player that can already be found in Paris” before adding that such a policy was a “request from the leadership.”
PSG director general Jean-Claude Blanc said he knew of what he called the “extremely ambiguous” comments made by Westerloppe during one meeting, comments for which Westerloppe was summoned by the club.
“We asked him to explain and justify himself, which he did and we judged at the time — without knowing about the existence of the profiling and the ethnic criteria — his explanations as acceptable,” Blanc told The Associated Press. “So we didn’t take any sanction against him, but we explicitly reminded him as to have no ambiguity with regards to the recruitment of youngsters.”
Asked why Westerloppe was not dismissed, Blanc replied: “Labor law does not allow you to fire someone just for making an ambiguous comment during a meeting … We didn’t have sufficient elements in hand to fire him three years ago. The existence of the lists was not known.”
Although PSG had not planned to speak directly with Gboho, who is now with first division Rennes, Blanc says discussions could take place.
“I think we’ll meet this young player at some point in the next few weeks,” Blanc said. “We’ll see if we meet him as part of the internal inquiry. For now it’s not planned.”
Olivier Letang, PSG’s sporting director at the time of the aforementioned lists, is now president of Rennes. He hired Westerloppe in January. Gboho signed professional forms this year.
Seven years ago, French soccer was rocked by revelations from Mediapart that then-national team coach Laurent Blanc and others discussed informal quotas limiting black and Arab youth players’ involvement in the national squad.
According to Mediapart, Blanc was informed of Westerloppe’s comments in June and summoned him to a meeting before clearing him, while director of human resources Celine Peltier alleged that former sporting director Olivier Letang “made identical remarks” to Westerloppe.
Letang later said that he was “shocked and hurt” that his name has been associated with the report.
Revealing contact from media consortium EIC in early October, PSG confirmed the existence of “an unacceptable identification field” in scouting reports from outside of the Ile-de-France region and said that “the Club’s General Management at no time was aware of an ethnic monitoring within the scouting department or ever in possession of such a form.”
PSG continued that “these forms betray the spirit and values of PSG” and branded Westerloppe’s alleged 2014 quotes as “reprehensible,” while pointing out that a lack of “concrete evidence to corroborate these statements” meant that the “appropriate disciplinary measures” were “unable to be implemented.”
With the internal investigation still not over, PSG stated that they have already “defined a controlled methodology for scouting” including “a code of conduct, an ethical alert procedure and a promotion of ethical culture among club employees,” and will also “set up awareness programmes via Human Resources.”
PSG reiterated their “fight against all forms of discrimination” and the fact that the club has been “fighting against all forms of stadium violence and racism” for the past 10 years.
Under French law, “collecting or processing personal data that directly or indirectly reveals the racial or ethnic origin of a person” is an offence punishable by five years in prison and a €300,000 fine.
PSG’s senior side possess a number of homegrown players of varying ethnic backgrounds scouted within Ile-de-France, such as Alphonse Areola (Philippines), Presnel Kimpembe (a former DR Congo under-20 international), Colin Dagba (Benin), Stanley N’Soki (Congo), Christopher Nkunku (DR Congo), Yacine Adli (Algeria) and Moussa Diaby (Mali).
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.