In a clash between the two leadings clubs in Ligue 1 on Sunday evening, a late own goal by Thiago Silva earned Monaco a 1-1 draw against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and thus prevented his team from amassing an eight point gap at the top of the French league. Both teams appear set to occupy the top two positions in Ligue 1 this season and for the foreseeable future given their vast spending power, but while they may both share a significant financial advantages, the clubs could not be more different in terms of attendance figures.
Whereas Qatar money helped PSG to win the French title last season with a probable repeat for the current campaign, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev has financed the recovery of Monaco from a Ligue 2 team on the drift, to a team challenging for honours in the top tier. A season ending injury to striker Radamel Falcao is likely to ensure that Monaco will finish second in the league come May, but with both teams capable of spending £20 million upwards on a player during the forthcoming summer, their domination of French football is almost guaranteed.
Yet while PSG can command average crowds of 45,000 to the Parc des Princes for normal league matches, the 16,000 spectators gathering for the Monaco versus PSG match on Sunday evening represents a significant increase on the usual crowd for a league match at the impressive Stade Louis II in the southern France principality.
For a home fixture before the winter break, Monaco attracted an attendance of just over 6,000 for a game against Ligue 1 strugglers Valenciennes in a stadium with a capacity of 18,000+. The empty seats and lack of atmosphere were in stark contrast to the lively encouragement usually prevalent within a full Parc des Princes on match days.
However the capacity crowds in Paris do appear to be the exception in French football with many other clubs finding it difficult to cope with the responsibilities of a tax system which enforces them to pay high rates of tax on their top earners and as such are becoming selling clubs. PSG are able to absorb this burden while Monaco have agreed to pay a fee of about 50 million euros to remove the criticism over their tax-exempt status.
Monaco will also be able to join PSG next season in attracting additional finance from their exploits in the Champions League which will enable them to justify some of their spending powers in relation to UEFA financial fair play, as revenues earned from gate receipts are unlikely to increase in the long term.
For as long as Dmitry Rybolovlev stays at Monaco, they may be the only realistic challengers to a PSG dominated Ligue 1, but as with other European leagues, it would appear that financial clout is becoming more important than coaching ability in the race for domestic and international honours.