French FA scrambles to justify league-ending to UEFA, Lyon’s Aulas petitions for rethink

Noël Le Graët

By Andrew Warshaw

May 26 – The French football federation (FFF) has written to UEFA to justify the premature termination of its competitions and make sure their clubs are not penalised.

Last month UEFA imposed a May 25 deadline on European leagues – in other words yesterday – to say whether or not they intend to complete or cancel their domestic seasons. Any league cancelling would need to produce a list of teams that have qualified for European club competitions,

UEFA also outlined “legitimate reasons” for an abandoned season. These include  an official government order prohibiting sports events and “insurmountable economic problems” which make finishing the season impossible.

According to reports in France, French federation chief Noël Le Graët (pictured) has written specifically to UEFA president Aleksander saying France had no option but to cease playing because of the government mandate forbidding sports events, even behind closed doors, until September.

In his correspondence, Le Graet is reported to have confirmed that Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille and Rennes – who finished domestically in that order – would take part in the Champions League.

More tricky was selecting teams for the Europa League since both French domestic cup finals have still to be played. Lille, who finished fourth, would definitely take part in the Europa League but the other two places would be between Nice, Reims, Lyon and Saint-Étienne.

Meanwhile, the head of Lyon has written to the French government warning that the sport is facing an “unprecedented economic and social crisis”.

In an open letter to France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu, Jean-Michel Aulas also calls for training to resume in June with a view for matches to restart during the summer months.

France’s Ligue 1 is the only one of Europe’s Big 5 leagues to have been brought to a premature halt and training has not even been allowed to resume.

Aulas’s OL was seventh when the government put an end to the football season on April 28 and thus failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.

“The financial situation of French clubs is terrible. A definitive end to the season would lead French football into an unprecedented economic and social crisis,” he wrote estimating that losses could be between €700 million and €900 million.

French authorities began to relax COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on May 11 and further easing is expected to start on June 2.

“Many developments and hopes are expected on this date for France to gradually regain a good dynamic,” Aulas noted.

“Could we anticipate that June 2 is also a great opportunity to rectify the mistake concerning French football and allow, with a health protocol used everywhere, to give the starting point for a progressive resumption of training (in June) and, perhaps, a resumption of the championships of the 2019/2020 season in July or August?”

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