Failed Mediapro partnership strikes financial fear into hearts of French club football

December 21 – French football is still counting the cost of the loss of the Mediapro broadcast deal that has plunged a raft of clubs, already hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, into further financial disarray.

Fears in France are that leading clubs could now struggle to hold on their key assets in the January transfer window.

The Chinese-Spanish agency acquired 80% of the rights for €800 million a year to broadcast on their Telefoot channel from this season. It was a record rights fee for French football. But since October, Mediapro has reportedly been pushing for a reduction in the amount it pays and has missed at least one payment.

Christophe Galtier, the coach of Ligue 1 leader Lille, said the collapse of the deal, under which customers were charged €25-per-month, would have grave repercussions.

“Football’s economy is obviously going to find itself in great difficulty. With the COVID-19 crisis and Brexit coming, it’s going to get complicated,” Galtier was quoted as saying. “We have to trust the directors, the authorities and the club presidents to get through this storm, because it’s a real storm.”

Mediapro’s boss Jaume Roures recently revealed that Telefoot, the pay-tv channel the company created to show Ligue 1 but which is now expected to close down in January eight months after being launched, had 600,000 subscribers, far short of the projected 3.5 million.

“It’s obvious that Covid is affecting a lot of aspects of our being able to exploit our rights,” said Roures. “We want to renegotiate the contract for this season. We are not questioning the project as it is, but the bars and restaurants are closed, advertising is down.”

Mediapro has reportedly agreed to return the rights to 2020-2024 Ligue 1 games but will pay only a portion of what it owes to the French league.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi  has called for a full inquiry while Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas commented: “I’ve never seen that in my life. A guy who presents himself as the big saviour of French football and now he doesn’t have the money to pay the contract. It’s absurd.”

Canal Plus, he historical partner of Ligue 1 and French championship and which already shows a limited number of Ligue 1 matches, is believed to be waiting in the wings but no offer has yet been made public. It already has a partnership with beIN Sports who would also likely be part of any solution, though it is unlikely to match the amount originally paid by Mediapro.

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