French club crisis deepens as TV rights tender falls flat

By Samindra Kunti

February 2 – The TV rights crisis in French football is deepening after a new tender for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 looks to have flopped with bids below what the league and clubs had expected. 

On Monday,  Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) said in a statement that it had received offers from Amazon, Discovery and DAZN to show matches from the top two divisions, but that all the bids fell below the minimum required. Tellingly, both Canal+ and beIN Sports failed to submit a bid. The news is a fresh hammer blow for clubs who have been cash-strapped due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Given that the reserve price has not been met, the consultations (bids) have been declared unsuccessful,” said the league.

“The LFP gives itself 48 hours to define the next steps to take in the commercialization of its rights.”

Those 48 hours may go a long way in deciding the long-term future of French professional football with an economic depression, potential bankruptcies and a further devaluation of the TV rights on the horizon if no solution can be found to end the crisis that was sparked by Mediapro’s acrimonious exit from the French game.  

The Spanish agency and the league had sealed a deal worth more than €800 million a season, but Mediapro, which created a new channel Telefoot, missed scheduled payments of €172 million and €152.5 million before the contract was terminated. 

As compensation, Mediapro agreed to pay the LFP €100 million, relinquishing the TV rights.

In the background, a dispute with Canal+, for decades the main broadcaster in French football, is also escalating.  Canal+ president Maxime Saada wanted all of the rights to be returned for a new bidding process, and not just the 80% of games bought by Mediapro. Saada was referring to the batch of rights the league had licensed from beIN Sports.

No agreement could be found between the two parties and Canal+ launched a lawsuit.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1634930734labto1634930734ofdlr1634930734owedi1634930734sni@o1634930734fni1634930734