French football licks its wounds

The government ended the season without counting with the clubs
The President of the Professional Football League (LFP) Nathalie Boy de la Tour (D) and the Executive Director General of the LFP, Didier Quillot, hold a press conference on the financial report of the National Management Control Directorate (DNCG) and on the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus, in Paris on 11 March 2020

AFP/FRANCK FIFE  -   The President of the Professional Football League (LFP) Nathalie Boy de la Tour (D) and the Executive Director General of the LFP, Didier Quillot, hold a press conference on the financial report of the National Management Control Directorate (DNCG) and on the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus, in Paris on 11 March 2020

"Like idiots" was the full-page title of L'Equipe last May 29. The leading French sports newspaper attacked months later the French government's unilateral decision to end the football season on 10 April. It did so when it saw how German football had returned without any health problems, just as Spanish or English football will. The measure in France was taken after the government's own surprising previous decision to ban sports until September. A catastrophe for a sport that, although it is not a priority, moves a lot of money. And more than it will generate next season with the arrival of Jaume Roures to Ligue 1.


The economic debacle is enormous because the televisions with rights have already communicated that, logically, they are not going to pay the rest of the season. Canal Plus, for France, and beIN Sports, for abroad, will not pay the nearly 200 million that would be left over for the entire season. No games, no money. The option of completing the championship behind closed doors would have solved this problem and would have given viability to many clubs that now find themselves at the expense of supposed state loans.  


Roures' arrival to France is a significant boost for French football. The Spanish businessman followed the script of the football war he waged in Spain in 2008 against PRISA, but without the blood reaching the Seine. He bid hard and won 800 million euros for the rights to Ligue 1. Now he has allied with TF1 to broadcast the matches on a new channel created for football. What was once GolT will now be Telefoot. A peculiar move since PSG is the only team with great players in that competition while the level of the other teams is not very high. Besides, the chances of cracks like Neymar or Mbappé flying to other clubs in Europe are very high. But Roures doesn't give stitches without thread and the same thing stitches a star on the Catalan flag that puts the football of Gaul at the top of Mont Blanc.

Jaume Roures, jefe del grupo de medios de comunicación Mediapro de España, asiste a una conferencia de prensa después de ganar la mayoría de los derechos de televisión del campeonato francés de fútbol Ligue 1, en París, Francia, el 31 de mayo de 2018
PHOTO/REUTERS - Jaume Roures, head of Spain's Mediapro media group, attends a press conference after winning the majority of television rights to the French Ligue 1 football championship in Paris, France, on 31 May 2018

Jean-Michel Aulas has been the president of Olympique de Lyon since 1987. For the last 23 years he has been sitting in the stands of all the European stadiums where his team played. He was Real Madrid's toothache in those Champions League matches where they were always defeated. Aulas, the best partner of Florentino Pérez to whom he put Karim Benzema on a tray to make a career in Spain. Well, Aulas is going to be left without playing in Europe next season because his team was seventh in the table when the league went out.


At 71 years old, Aulas is going to give a lot of war this summer. The president of OL will lodge an appeal with France's top administrative body alongside the 20 teams in Ligue 1 to demand that the competition be resumed. In the meantime, he is trying to make his speech heard in the media, and there is nothing better than one of those phrases that makes you look at what you read: "I think we were stupid to end the league". That speech by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in the French Assembly on 28 April, in which he suspended football until September, could lead to a lawsuit for more than 800 million euros.

El presidente francés del Amiens, Bernard Joannin (4ºI), habla con su abogado al salir de una audiencia sobre los recursos judiciales de los clubes de fútbol de Toulouse, Amiens y Lyon, contra la forma en que terminaron las temporadas de la Ligue 1 y la Ligue 2 francesas debido a la pandemia de coronavirus, en el Consejo de Estado en París, el 4 de junio de 2020
AFP/FRANCK FIFE - Amiens' French President Bernard Joannin (4ºL) speaks to his lawyer after a hearing on the legal appeals lodged by Toulouse, Amiens and Lyon football clubs against the way the French Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons ended due to the coronavirus pandemic, at the Council of State in Paris on 4 June 2020

Just as rare as Roures' investment in French football is that the competition's solicitous president Didier Quillot (the Gallic Javier Tebas) let such a decision slip through his fingers. In Spain, Tebas has been ringing bells for his cause every week. First by setting a return date in May, then by making peace with Rubiales and now in his Sunday speech warming up the return. Quillot said in March that "the championship will be over". In light of the prediction's failure, the LFP president has presented an ambitious rescue plan so that many French clubs do not disappear. A state-guaranteed loan to fill the void left by the television rights and take over the tax on large fortunes that France sanctioned years ago. The state pays. But there is no football.


UEFA made it very easy for France. It postponed for a year the European Championship that was to be held in several countries (except France, which had already hosted the 2016 edition) to give the leagues time and space to finish their championships. We already told that the European organization did not want to alter the future competitions for three months of stop and much less was willing to accept in the next Champions and Europa League teams that had not made sporting merits. It threatened to send those teams to the previous stages. Ceferin had to rectify these words in the case of the PSG and by extension the LFP and guaranteed his three places in the Champions League. But he said nothing about the Netherlands also suspending their competition.  


PSG won their ninth league title in the dispatches on 30 April. The LFP pulled off a mathematical engineering coup and distributed positions by weighting points, leaving Marseille in second place. These two teams will play the Champions League alongside Rennes, who will be playing in the preliminary round. Lille will play the Europa League, and the two remaining places would be for Reims and Nice. Toulouse and Amiens would be the two teams relegated to Ligue 2, while Lens and Lorient would be promoted to Ligue 1. PSG want to play their Cup finals and Ligue 2 is not happy with the new distribution of rights.

En esta foto de archivo tomada el 18 de mayo de 2019, el defensor brasileño del Paris Saint-Germain Thiago Silva celebra con el trofeo de campeón al final del partido de fútbol de la Ligue1 francesa entre el Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) y Dijon en el estadio del Parque de los Príncipes de París
AFP/FRANCK FIFE - In this archive photo taken on 18 May 2019, Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian defender Thiago Silva celebrates with the championship trophy at the end of the French Ligue 1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Dijon at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris

It is not lost on anyone that the PSG is the big loser. The club that eats at the table of Europe's top players has seen even its silverware taken away from it. The season they were playing their best football could have ended with a 2-0 win over Dortmund in Paris on 11 March and a virtual quarter-final berth. The club is now waiting for France to allow them to contest at least their two domestic finals against Saint-Etienne in the French Cup and against Lyon in the League Cup. A dream that would involve the return to work of three teams of which PSG and Lyon would later go on to play the Champions in August with everything to be decided for the Lyon who would travel to Turin to defend the 1-0 achieved in their stadium.

En esta foto de archivo tomada el 09 de febrero de 2020, los aficionados encienden bengalas en las gradas durante el partido de fútbol francés entre el París Saint-Germain (PSG) y el Lyon (OL) en el estadio del Parque de los Príncipes de París
AFP/GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT - In this archive photo taken on 09 February 2020, fans light flares in the stands during the French football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lyon (OL) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris

France has not taken its football into account and French football has been left to watch the government's decisions. Now, both sides will try to return to a complex situation that allows us to understand what kind of social and political phenomenon football is in Spain so that it has a return date.