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Crisis team assembled by Ligue 1 presidents to save French football from financial ruin

RMC Sport report that eight Ligue 1 presidents have formed a crisis team in a bid to save French football from financial ruin amid the ongoing COVID-19 disruption to the footballing calendar.

The board of directors of the LFP met for three hours on Friday afternoon, in a meeting that saw the majority of decision-makers reaffirm their desire to complete the 2019/20 season at the earliest possible opportunity.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi (PSG), Jacques-Henri Eyraud (Marseille), Olivier Sadran (Toulouse) and Jean-Pierre Rivère (OGC Nice) have been tasked with negotiating with TV rights holders beIN Sports (of which Al-Khelaifi is also president) and Canal +, who are refusing to make payments for April owing to the fact that there is unlikely to be any football.

A committee, separate to the LFP, has also been formed in recent days, made up of eight presidents, with the abovementioned four included plus Nicolas Holveck (Rennes), Jean-Michel Aulas (Lyon), Bernard Caiazzo (St Étienne) and Gérard Lopez (Lille). The aim of this group, away from the LFP, is to find a financial solution to save all professional teams, bringing together the networks of eight of these business leaders to find a solution. Lopez is currently heading up the search for bank loans to save Ligue 1.

The formation of such a group, informally outside of the confines of the LFP, represents a setback for Nathalie Boy de la Tour, who is president of the organisation. de la Tour has privately expressed her concerns over the “conflict of interest” involved with Al-Khelaifi, who heads up both PSG and beIN Sports, being in a position to negotiate with the broadcasters, so much so that she has sought legal advice on the validity of such a situation. 

One Ligue 1 President told RMC: “She has the wrong target here. Nasser Al-Khelaifi is here to participate in French football and help it. He has more to lose than to win in this situation.”

The LFP itself has been looking for several days to take on a loan from private equity funds, to make up the shortfall for Ligue 1 clubs of this dead time, which is thought to be between €200m and €250m. RMC report that several American private equity funds have submitted proposals to the LFP. The body will then submit them for review to the Ligue 1 clubs in the coming days.

Several Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 presidents want Lille owner Gérard Lopez to conduct these negotiations and view him as best placed to find the best loan terms to save French football. The loan is seen as a fallback position if negotiations to get Canal + and BeIN Sport to pay the money technically due for April fails completely.

In response to Brest president Denis Le Saint’s formal letter on Friday demanding that this is season be viewed as finished with the existing placings counting, two Ligue 1 presidents told RMC that he was being “selfish… opportunistic because Brest are not yet assured safety in Ligue 1 and have received 91% of their TV rights for the season, while Marseille and PSG have yet to receive even 50% of the rights that they are due for the campaign.”

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