Nasser Al-Khelaifi

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Al-Khelaifi’s role on UEFA ruling body defended by Agnelli

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GENEVA (AP) Under investigation in French and Swiss criminal investigations, the president of Paris Saint-Germain has been praised as a “tremendous professional” by UEFA executive committee colleague Andrea Agnelli.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Agnelli, the European Club Association chairman, have four-year terms to represent clubs on the European soccer body’s ruling panel.

Speaking after the first ECA meeting since both were renewed last month, Agnelli described Al-Khelaifi as “knowledgeable, competent, a professional.”

Agnelli said: “Why not him? We live in a world (where) we are innocent unless proven guilty.”

Swiss federal prosecutors opened a criminal proceeding against Al-Khelaifi in 2017 for suspected bribery of a FIFA official before Qatar-based beIN Sports got renewed World Cup broadcast rights for the 2026 and 2030 tournaments.

Since Al-Khelaifi joined UEFA’s decision-making body in February, French prosecutors filed a preliminary charge of “active corruption” regarding payments linked to Qatar’s bids to host the 2017 and 2019 track world championships.

The Qatari executive has not been charged and denies wrongdoing. He continues to run French champion PSG.

Agnelli said other ECA officials were eligible for the UEFA seat “but we collectively as a board converged on the name of Nasser. He’s a tremendous professional.”

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PSG president targeted by French corruption probe

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has been placed under investigation for corruption as part of an inquiry into the bidding process for the 2017 and 2019 track world championships, a judicial official said Thursday.

The official told The Associated Press the preliminary charge of “active corruption” was filed against the beIN media group chairman in mid-May in a case focusing on the payment of $3.5 million to an IAAF official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

The official said Al-Khelaifi is suspected of corruption “in regards with Qatar’s track and field worlds.” Al-Khelaifi is from Qatar.

Al-Khelaifi’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment and beIN media group declined to comment on the case because it said it “doesn’t relate in any way to the company.”

The chief executive officer of beIN, Yousef Al-Obaidly, was also handed preliminary charges of corruption, while former IAAF president Lamine Diack is suspected of “passive corruption” in the same case.

According to Al-Obaidly’s lawyer, investigative magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke based his suspicion on documents showing that a former IAAF official received two payments totaling about $3.5 million from Qatari investors before the vote for the 2017 track world championships. Qatar eventually lost to London but was later awarded the 2019 worlds. The championships will be held in Doha from Sept. 27-Oct. 6.

The two payments from Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, an investment fund linked to the Qatari government, were made to Pamodzi Sports Marketing in October and November 2011, days before the vote.

Al-Obaidly’s representatives say the payments made by Oryx to the IAAF’s appointed agent were transparent and part of the normal bidding process. Set up to handle the sponsorship and rights for Qatar’s bid, Oryx accepted to pay $32.5 million for the event’s commercial rights, including the $3.5 million paid to Pamodzi as a non-refundable deposit. The full amount would have been paid only if Qatar’s bid had been successful.

According to the online news site Mediapart, Oryx is owned by Al-Khelaifi and his brother Khalid. Mediapart said Al-Khelaifi was questioned by the judge in March and denied any knowledge of the payments at the time.

Pamodzi was founded by one of Diack’s sons, Papa Massata Diack. A former marketing consultant at the IAAF, he has been banned for allegations of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Russian marathon runner to avoid a doping ban before the 2012 Olympics. France has issued a wanted notice for him via Interpol.

In another case, Brazilian and French authorities are trying to find out whether Lamine Diack and his son played a role in arranging alleged bribes to help Rio de Janeiro earn the hosting rights for the 2016 Olympics. Diack, who ran the IAAF from 1999-2015, has also been accused of covering up failed Russian doping tests in exchange for money.

Al-Khelaifi is a member of the UEFA executive committee, representing European clubs, and is due to take part in the body’s meeting on Wednesday in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Al-Khelaifi was selected as a club delegate, and confirmed by UEFA member federations in February, despite being the subject of a criminal proceeding for bribery in Switzerland since 2017. The Qatari television executive is suspected of bribing FIFA’s then-secretary general with use of a luxury villa in Italy to help secure 2026 and 2030 World Cup broadcasting rights in the Middle East for Doha-based beIN Sports.

PSG is also under investigation by UEFA for possibly breaking financial rules.

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.

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FIFA probe: Al-Khelaifi confirms his presence in Switzerland

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi says he will go to Switzerland next Wednesday to answer questions from Swiss prosecutors investigating the suspected bribery of a top FIFA executive for World Cup broadcasting rights.

Criminal proceedings against Al-Khelaifi, who is also CEO of Qatar-owned BeIN Media Group, former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, and an unnamed businessman working in sports rights were announced by the office of Switzerland’s attorney general last week.

The case involves the award of broadcast rights for the next four World Cups from 2018 through 2030.

Al-Khelaifi is alleged to have offered advantages to Valcke – FIFA’s CEO-like secretary general from 2007 until his firing in January 2016 – for the award of media rights in certain countries for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup.

Speaking Wednesday night on Canal Plus television, after PSG’s 4-0 win away to Anderlecht in the Champions League, Al-Khelaifi confirmed his trip to Switzerland.

“I have an appointment on the 25th. I will go there to speak with them, the Swiss (authorities),” said Khelaifi, who attended Wednesday’s match in Belgium. “That’s all.”

The proceeding against Al-Khelaifi is one of the first direct links to Qatar in sweeping investigations by federal law enforcement authorities in Switzerland, the United States, and France concerning FIFA, international soccer, and the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Last week, the Paris offices of BeIN Sports were searched. Properties were searched in Greece, Italy, and Spain while Valcke was questioned in Switzerland.

Paris Saint-Germain job open as Laurent Blanc departs Ligue 1 giants

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There’s a high profile, high pressure position available in France.

Laurent Blanc has stepped down as Paris Saint-Germain boss after three successful seasons but a failure to meet the club’s expectations in the UEFA Champions League.

High-budget PSG throttled the Ligue 1 competition over three seasons, including an astounding 2015-16 that saw the side put up an absurd table line: 30W-6D-2L, plus-83 goal differential, and a 31-point advantage on second-place Lyon and Monaco.

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After bouncing Chelsea in the UCL’s Round of 16 this year, PSG lost to Manchester City over two legs in a quarterfinal. Chelsea previously knocked them out in the Round of 16 (2014-15) and quarters (2013-14).

From PSG’s official English site:

“As we embark on a new chapter in the development of the club, I would like to thank Laurent Blanc for everything he has achieved over the last three years, both in terms of the playing style and results,” declared Paris Saint-Germain Chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaïfi. “I wish him the best for his future challenges.”

Sevilla’s Unai Emery has been linked with the post, and has the tournament acumen after navigating three-straight Europa League title runs.

Having a stand named after you while still playing is Daring to Zlatan

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Serial champion Zlatan Ibrahimovic is going to get a rare honor from Paris Saint-Germain before his playing days are through.

The big Swede, 34, scored 154 goals in 179 appearances for PSG before deciding to skip town this summer. He’s coming off his finest season in France, scoring 48 goals in 50 games.

And whether he ends up in England, the United States or somewhere else, Ibrahimovic has earned the admiration of Paris. It’s going to become quite official, too.

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“I couldn’t say it before, but I can say it to you now,” said PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi to STV Sport. “We will name a grandstand here at Le Parc des Princes after Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”

Lofty honors for Zlatan, though perhaps not too surprising considering the club’s finale was paused to celebrate him (He then scored).