Sunday 4 December 2016

Football investment firm scores with €45m deal

Simon Rowe

Published 27/11/2016 | 02:30

Footballer Joao Mario
Footballer Joao Mario

Irish-based sports management firm Quality Football Ireland is set for a €7.5m windfall following a high-profile deal to sell top Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario to Italian giants Inter Milan, it is understood.

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Quality Football Ireland, which was established in 2011 to buy the economic rights of up-and-coming players, is reportedly due a share of the €45m deal - the most expensive sale in Portuguese football history - after terms were agreed by Mario's club Sporting Lisbon.

Sporting Lisbon is due to receive €37.5m and Quality Football Ireland (QFIL) will receive €7.5m as part of the deal agreed in late August.

QFIL acquired a portion - thought to be about 20pc - of the economic rights of Joao Mario in 2012.

The 23-year-old midfielder was a key figure in Portugal's Euro 2016 triumph in France.

Established in 2011, the firm has a registered office at an accountancy firm in Clanwilliam Square, Dublin.

In recently filed accounts, QFIL says: "The company operates in one principal activity, that of the acquisition of Economic Rights Participation Agreements with certain professional football clubs whereby the company acquires a portion of the economic rights of the clubs in relation to one or more professional football players under contract with the clubs."

Typically, QFIL buys a share in the rights to young players and this investment entitles them to a cut of the funds from any future transfer fees.

QFIL also has links to Gestifute International, an Irish-based company controlled by football super agent Jorge Mendes, who represents Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Valencia winger Nani.

A global ban on third-party ownership of players was introduced by Fifa in 2015.

However, it is entirely legal for the likes of agents and investors such as QFIL to buy shares in a club, with a view to cashing in with a cut of transfer fees netted by the club, or providing a loan to a club and being repaid plus interest from sell-on fees; and acting as an agent in order to receive a cut from sell-on fees as commission.

It is understood that this is how many QFIL deals were structured.

Ireland's three third-party ownership football funds, which have held stakes in the economic rights of players at Sporting Lisbon and Atletico Madrid, still hold more than €23m in investments.

The funds, including Quality Football Ireland, were established in 2011 to buy the economic rights of up-and-coming players.

Recently filed accounts for Quality Football Ireland show it had €5.95m in investments at the end of 2015, unchanged from the previous year.

Related companies Quality Football Ireland IV and Burnaby Investments Ireland had player assets of €13m and €4.15m respectively, both unchanged from 2014.

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