the great vulnerability of footballers to attempts at extortion or blackmail

How to explain this incredible Paul Pogba affair? She is the subject of a judicial investigation against X for « extortion with a weapon in an organized gang » and « kidnapping and forcible confinement ». Five people were taken into police custody, franceinfo learned on Wednesday September 14, including Mathias Pogba, the brother of the French international.

>> Paul Pogba case: what we know about the men in police custody

Among players, the least we can say is that the subject is taboo. When French players are asked about the reality of the attempts at blackmail, swindling, destabilization to which some are subject, all say that it is a real subject in the world of professional football, but discretion, family ties, fear, shame too, block speech. “Between pros, it is very often that we talk about trouble related to money”tells us off the microphone this former Paris Saint-Germain, of Ivorian origin.

According to him, this particularly affects young players of African and North African origin when it comes to the entourage or the family. But in the end, all social and ethnic categories can be affected with attempts from crooked agents, intermediaries or downright thugs. When it is not the players themselves who import mafia methods.

For franceinfo, an intermediary agent puts the cards on the table. He left France to work in the English championship. « Too many problems. Too many threats »explains the agent, as with this disgruntled player: « A player who hadn’t been kept at a professional club came to my house when I was in Paris, around 11 p.m., he said to me: ‘Can you come downstairs? I would like to talk.’ I had never had a problem with this player who I had known for years and in fact I got out. There were four guys who got out of the car too. They had caps, etc. They were in jogging with gloves, and surrounded me. There is one who said: ‘Because of you, my brother he does not have a club. So now you have to pay, you have to reimburse otherwise we will blow up everything in your house’. »

« These are young people who often come from very disadvantaged backgrounds. As soon as one of them succeeds, all these friends want to take advantage of it and go to live with him. Obviously, there is always the brother or the father who wants to place as an agent. Football players are the most defrauded by those close to them. »

A football player’s agent

at franceinfo

The entourage, the family environment, these are precisely the cogs of the Pogba affair. What you have to understand is that the Pogba affair is just the tip of a solid gold iceberg. An example with a figure: in 2021, according to FIFA, the amount of transfers of French players was around 560 million euros. This is the record by nationality on the football planet. An obviously undervalued figure which does not take into account the tailor-made remuneration for certain players within the big clubs. And we are not talking about image rights. This huge cake is the nerve of all these attempts to put pressure on the players, some of which, very few in the end, end up in criminal proceedings.

Christophe Hutteau is an agent approved by the Federation. When contracts are signed, the family can play a dangerous role. “One day, a dad called me and explained to me that his son was a French international in the young player categories and that vsit would be an honor to work with me. We discuss, and then at the end of the discussion, he says to me: ‘Good, and us, as we do?’ I tell him: ‘We do what you want, we see each other where you want, when you want.’ Dad replies: ‘No, you don’t understand. There is an agent, two minutes ago on the phone, he offered to offer a car to my wife’. »

« Family influence is far too often destructive, but not only in the family, it is also in the first circle of friends, of people with whom they grew up. »

Christophe Hutteau, football player agent

at franceinfo

Faced with these pressures, players turn first and foremost to their agent, but also to lawyers. Arnaud Péricard defends and advises big names in sport and football in particular. The football community may be very regulated, explains the lawyer, his firm is often asked about this kind of business. “We have attempted scams, we have sextape blackmail. We have cases in nightclubs of certain athletes who are pushed around with provoked fights, business or investments which are sometimes misdirected, requests protection in exchange for some form of compensation. »

« Most of the time, there is a form of modesty or sometimes shame. A client’s first temptation will be to want to sort it out on their own. »

Arnaud Péricard, lawyer

at franceinfo

« We tell them that, on the contrary, these are cases that are already serious enough to justify, if necessary, the filing of a criminal complaint, perhaps the request for police protection. The golden rule, in in any case, what we try to impose on our customers, is to never acquiesce in blackmail or extortion requests »explains the lawyer.

Impossible to know the exact number of complaints filed by French footballers. Lawyers are not the only ones advising players. The clubs’ training centres, the Hopes centers of the Federation via the Fondaction du Football or the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP) make young people aware of the risks (of social networks in particular) before their career takes off and the money becomes, for some, a source of trouble.

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