PSG open probe into claims of racial profiling of young players

Paris - Paris Saint-Germain have opened a probe into claims that young players were subject to racial profiling during their recruitment process, a source close to the club said on Thursday.

"We have opened an internal investigation," the source told AFP, after the claims made by French investigative website Mediapart, who cited documents from the latest series of Football Leaks allegations.

According to Mediapart, between 2013 and the spring of this year, PSG's scouting department filled in evaluation forms on young players that included stating their ethnicity. Their origin was to be described as French, North African, West Indian or African. Such social profiling is illegal in France.

The source acknowledged the existence of these forms to AFP.

Mediapart, part of the European Investigative Collaborations consortium which has studied the Football Leaks documents, said the forms were used to evaluate potential young signings.

The controversy "blew up internally" in March 2014, said Mediapart, in relation to the case of a talented 13-year-old player called Yann Gboho, who caught the eye of scouts while he was playing for FC Rouen in the Normandy region of northern France.

A PSG scout who evaluated the teenager in November 2013 stated his origin as "West Indian". The evaluation form has a box on ethnicity with a drop-down menu offering the four choices of French, North African, West Indian and African, Mediapart said.

The investigative website 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 who was born in the Ivory Coast -- eventually signed for rival Ligue 1 club Rennes.

The matter "caused a swirl within PSG", said Mediapart, with Football Leaks citing the minutes from a meeting on March 14, 2014.

At the meeting, Marc Westerloppe, in charge of scouting in France outwith the Paris region 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."

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 HR department at the club, and Mediapart say Westerloppe was summoned to a meeting in June 2014 in which he rejected the accusations against him as "false, malicious and stupid". He was not punished by the club, the website says.

Westerloppe and Olivier Letang -- then the sporting director at PSG and now the president at Rennes -- responded to Mediapart by saying "this affair concerns PSG".

PSG charged Malek Boutih -- an anti-racism campaigner and former politician -- with the task of responding to Mediapart's questions about the claims.

"The club confirms that this profiling was put in place, but...they say that things were done in secret" and that "management was not aware".

However, Mediapart said that these same forms continued to be "scrupulously filled in up until the spring of 2018".

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.