Claims of racial profiling by Paris Saint-Germain youth scouts emerged in the latest series of Football Leaks allegations / © AFP/File
Paris Saint-Germain confirmed Thursday that a probe was underway into claims that young players were subject to racial profiling by talent scouts, but insisted they were unaware of such practices taking place.
The probe was launched in response to revelations by French investigative website Mediapart, who cited documents from the latest series of Football Leaks allegations.
Mediapart said that, between 2013 and this year, PSG's scouting department filled in evaluation forms on potential youth signings that included stating their ethnicity.
They were categorised as French, North African, West Indian or African. Such profiling is illegal in France.
"Paris Saint-Germain confirm that forms with illegal content were used between 2013 and 2018 by the scouting department at the youth academy," the French giants said in a statement.
"These forms were used solely at the initiative of the staff in charge of that department."
The club added that an internal investigation was launched last month "to understand how such practices could exist and decide what measures to take".
"The club's general management were never aware of a racial profiling system in the scouting department and never had such a form in their possession," said PSG, who also came under scrutiny last week following Football Leaks revelations about their breaches of Financial Fair Play regulations.
Mediapart, part of the European Investigative Collaborations consortium which has studied the Football Leaks documents, said the controversy "blew up internally" in March 2014.
That was in relation to the case of a 13-year-old player called Yann Gboho, who caught the eye of scouts while playing for FC Rouen in northern France.
A PSG scout who evaluated the teenager in November 2013 stated his origin as "West Indian".
Mediapart quoted Serge Fournier, the PSG scout who evaluated Gboho, as saying "instead of French, it should have said white, especially as all the players we recommended were French."
"PSG didn't want us to recruit players born in Africa, because you are never sure of their date of birth," he was quoted as saying.
The player in question -- a French youth international born in the Ivory Coast -- eventually signed for Rennes.
- Complaints made -
The matter "caused a swirl within PSG", said Mediapart, citing the minutes from a meeting on March 14, 2014.
At the meeting, Marc Westerloppe, then in charge of PSG scouting in France outside the Paris region, 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."
The alleged comments caused upset, with Mediapart saying Pierre Reynaud -- in charge of youth recruitment in the Paris region -- saying "it must not be a question of ethnicity but of talent".
Complaints were then made to the club's HR department, and Westerloppe -- now at Rennes -- was summoned to a meeting in which he rejected the accusations against him as "false, malicious and stupid", according to Mediapart.
Olivier Letang, PSG's former sporting director, told AFP he was "profoundly shocked and hurt" by the claims / © AFP/File
PSG said no disciplinary action was taken because claims against him could not be backed up.
Olivier Letang -- then PSG's sporting director and now the president at Rennes -- responded to the claims by saying he was "profoundly shocked and hurt".
"The objectives set regarding recruitment at the youth academy never varied: it was always about signing the best young players with the aim of getting them into the first team," Letang told AFP.
The allegations trigger memories of a scandal that erupted earlier this decade, after Mediapart exposed a discussion in 2010 on race quotas in France's age-group teams.
According to Mediapart, those at the top of French football believed there were "too many blacks and too many Arabs and not enough whites" in the game.
Guadeloupe-born Lilian Thuram, France's most capped player and a World Cup winner in 1998, told Mediapart the new claims were "surreal".
"We are in 2018, we have won the World Cup, we have had the quota affair, and now I learn that people at PSG were doing this for years. Up until 2018! It's crazy," he said.