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Disastrous day for French football as TV rights bidding tender flops

A day that many felt was doomed to fail did not disappoint with the level of drama that it provided at the LFP’s offices in Paris.

French football’s governing body this morning held a new tender for bids to take over the cancelled Mediapro broadcasting contract, which was due to bring French football €830m a year between 2020 and 2024. The contract was cancelled after the broadcaster failed to make its 2nd payment as per the agreement, in October – they would go on to pay just the single starting instalment of the deal in August. Mediapro asked for a COVID-19 discount for the first campaign, the LFP said no, and took Mediapro to court, resulting in a dispute resolution agreement in front of the Nanterre tribunal in December. Mediapro agreed to pay €100m in remedies and the contract was cancelled.

Since, Mediapro’s OTT channel Téléfoot Chaine has been broadcasting the matches without having to pay the LFP for them, as the league body has struggled to find a replacement broadcaster. Initially, the LFP had hoped that Canal Plus, who have been showing French football since the 20th century, would step in to allow French football to absorb its losses. Canal Plus offered €400m for the whole lot, which would have been roughly a third of the overall initial package shared across multiple broadcasters of €1.135bn.

The LFP refused, Canal Plus chose to sue them. The French broadcaster is currently paying €332m a year for two Ligue 1 games a week, the package that they had bought alongside losing out to Mediapro for the majority of the French football matches (8 in Ligue 1 and 10 in Ligue 2) for the 2020-2024 period. Now that Mediapro’s contract has been cancelled, Canal + feel that paying €332m a year for two matches per gameweek is excessive and that they should be released from their contractual obligations in order for the whole of French football domestic rights to be renegotiated. The LFP has refused, and thus the two will go up against each other in 14 days time in a Paris court on this matter.

Today was supposed to see the LFP saved from themselves – bidding was opened on four different types of packages. The LFP needed to ensure that the offers made today amounted in total to €300m a year, the minimum, they had calculated, required to keep French football afloat. On top of Canal Plus’ existing €332m a year contract. 

RMC Sport report that the 4 offers received by the LFP during this morning’s tender process do not amount to that sum. BeIN Sports, Canal + and Altice/RMC all boycotted the event, in a shock and major slap in the face for LFP President Vincent Labrune, who had personally travelled to Doha in an attempt to convince Qatari bosses at BeIN to bail French football out. 

Instead, new media made their bids: offers came in from Amazon, Discovery and DAZN – but which packages of matches they bid for and for how much exactly remains unclear. All that we know is that the simple arithmetic of adding up offers per package did not amount to €300m in any combination. 

The fourth bidder was the most surprising –  Editorial Director at Téléfoot Chaine, Jean-Michel Roussier. He made the offers through a company that he owns himself. He bid on 2 Ligue 1 packages, and two Ligue 2 packages for the 2020-24 period. Who is backing him financially is unknwon.

The LFP’s board of directors met soon after the bids came in in emergency fashion and have decided to reflect on the situation for 24 hours before convening again.

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