Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) has acknowledged that some of its scouts were illegally profiling promising talents outside the capital and categorising them according to their ethnicities, French investigative news website Mediapart reported.
Mediapart said on Thursday the Parisian club started the practice in 2013 under which the team’s non-Paris based scouts were asked to list potential recruits as North African, French, African and West Indian.
According to the publication, Marc Westerloppe, then in charge of PSG scouting in France, is said to have expressed concern “with the direction the club is going in”.
“We need more diversity. There are too many West Indians and Africans in Paris.”
In a statement, the reigning champions confirmed that their scouts racially profiled young players as part of the recruitment process but said this was a personal initiative and not the club’s policy.
“Paris Saint-German confirm that forms with illegal content were used between 2013 and 2018 by the scouting department at the youth academy,” the statement read.
“These forms were used solely at the initiative of the staff in charge of that department.”
“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.”
WATCH: World Cup winners: Heroes’ welcome for France players (01:35)
The club said that an internal investigation had been launched last month “to understand how such practices could exist and decide what measures to take.”
The phenomenon first came to light in March 2014 when 13-year-old prodigy Yann Gboho was being evaluated by Serge Fournier.
Fournier, who listed Gboho as West Indian four months earlier despite his being born in Ivory Coast, was quoted as questioning the procedure.
“Instead of French, to should have said white, especially as all the players we recommended were French,” Fournier was quoted as saying.
“PSG didn’t want us to recruit players born in Africa, because you are never sure of their date of birth.”
Mediapart said the incident caused a bit of an upset with the rest of the team.
Pierre Reynaud, head recruitment in the greater Paris area, protested the discriminatory measure at the time, saying “it must not be a question of ethnicity but of talent”.
Westerloppe, who has since joined Rennes Football Club, was summoned in June 2014 after complaints were made to the HR department but dismissed the accusations as “false, malicious and stupid,” according to Mediapart.
Censuses based on race and ethnic origin were banned by the French government in 1978.
Critics, however, say omitting race from national statistics prevents authorities from addressing issues such as the effect of race on poverty, employment as well as the size of the prison population by ethnic denomination, among others.
The latest scandal is reminiscent of another incident in 2010 when race quotas were being discussed to limit the number of black and North African youth in French football programmes.