French court stays Amiens and Toulouse relegation, ordering Ligue 1 to re-examine format

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June 10 – French clubs Amiens and Toulouse have had their top-flight survival confirmed after the country’s  highest administrative court ruled against them being relegated as a result of the domestic season being ended prematurely.

The surprise decision is a blow to the credibility of the French football authorities who have basically had their relegation rules undermined.

What happens now is anyone’s guess with France’s top flight probably expanded to 22 teams after the court ordered the Ligue de Football Professionel (LFP) to reconsider its structure for 2020-21.

The court stopped short, however, of ordering the current season be resumed in line with most other major leagues across Europe.  A campaign had been led by Lyon who were fifth going into what proved to be the final round of matches, but finished seventh under the points-per-game system – missing out on European qualification as a result.

French domestic football was cancelled in April after the French government ruled professional sport could not return before September because of Covid-19. On a points per game basis Paris St-Germain were named champions, Amiens and Toulouse relegated and Ligue 2 sides Lorient and Lens promoted.

In its decision published on Tuesday, the Council of State said there was “no serious doubt on the legality of the decision” to curtail the season and said that the judge “validates the terms defined by the league, in particular for the classification of the Ligue 1 championship”.

But it added: “The President considers that the League’s administrative board could not legally rely, in deciding to relegate the lowest two (clubs) of the Ligue 1 ranking, on the fact that the current agreement concluded with the French Football Federation (FFF) provides for a limit of twenty clubs, while this agreement ends on June 30 and a new agreement will have to be signed.

“The judge therefore orders the Professional Football League, in conjunction with the competent bodies of the FFF, to re-examine the question of the format of Ligue 1 for the 2020-2021 season , in the light of all the elements relating to the conditions in which this season is likely to take place, and to draw the consequences as to the principle of relegation before June 30.”

Amiens and Toulouse are not entirely safe, however. According to reports in France, the LFP can itself  launch a counter-appeal which the national court would be forced to hear.

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