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Investors Take Stakes in Up to 1,100 Soccer Players, KPMG Says

Investors have acquired stakes in the transfer rights of as many as 1,100 soccer players in Europe from cash-strapped teams, according to a report by auditor KPMG Europe LLP’s Spanish unit.

Champions League squads Atletico Madrid and Porto are among those that have turned to selling stakes in team members to raise finance as an alternative to bank loans. Investors get a return based on the fee the player is eventually traded for.

UEFA, European soccer’s ruling body, wants to ban the practice, saying financial interests could damage the sport’s integrity. KPMG Asesores SL compiled the study for the European Club Association, whose chairman is Champions League title-holder Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

The combined stakes are worth as much as 1.1 billion euros ($1.5 billion), or 5.7 percent of the regional transfer market’s value, according to KPMG. Bloomberg News has seen a copy of the report, which hasn’t been made public.

The report said that soccer should investigate relations between player agents and investors, and start an international database of the investments.

The practice is widespread in 10 eastern European countries -- where investors hold about 40 percent of the market value of league players -- and is increasing in Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, the report says.

There is a “high concentration” of funds in Serbian soccer controlled by foreign groups from Spain, England and Israel, according to KPMG, which didn’t name any of the teams or funds involved. Among the best-known teams in Serbia are Red Star and Partizan Belgrade.

More Than Third

Malta-based Doyen Sports Investments Ltd. acquired stakes in players such as Porto’s Steven Defour and Eliaquim Mangala. It has invested 80 million euros the last three years, the unit CEO Nelio Lucas said on Sept. 20.

Investors hold as much as 36 percent of the market value of league players in Portugal and up to 8 percent in Spain, according to KPMG. They own about 3 percent of the market in the Dutch league, KPMG added.

The English Premier League banned such investments, known as third-party ownership, after it found that West Ham had ceded total control over Argentine striker Carlos Tevez to investors.

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