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Round Up | The week’s major stories you might have missed on GFFN

1) Ligue 1 authorities looking to introduce salary cap and contract reforms (Thurs)

L’Équipe report that the governing body in charge of France’s two professional football leagues, the LFP, is looking to lead several major reforms following a year of high financial losses for clubs.

The first of which would involve extending youth players’ first professional contract from three years to five, in order to reduce the likelihood of promising talents being poached by foreign clubs. With the players’ syndicate indicating that the measure would require a trade-off, a possible solution would see squads limited to 24 players (the current average is 37 per club), but players in their first contract would be exempt from this count. This would in turn afford more playing time to academy graduates.

French football’s financial regulator is also pushing for a salary cap – the wage bill would be a set percentage of the clubs’ budgets – would also favour young players’ development. The LFP has delegated the organisation of this measure to Reims president Jean-Pierre Caillot.

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi could be set to take on the marketing side of the reforms, with the aim being to “freshen up” Ligue 1’s image in order to increase broadcasting deals from abroad. Montpellier’s Laurent Nicollin will lead the governance shake-up. Nice’s Jean-Pierre Rivère is expected to be mandated to make changes in the world of refereeing, with one of the innovations being considered including attaching microphones to the referees. However, this change would require approval from the IFAB – the French Football Federation had already made such a request this summer, asked by Marseille following a friendly match against Villarreal, which was turned down.

2) Mauricio Pochettino on drawing against Brugge: “We know we have to do better.” (Wed)

Reacting to his team’s 1-1 draw against Club Brugge tonight, Mauricio Pochettino concluded that his star-studded forward line-up needed more time to gel together, after a misfiring performance in Belgium.

His words transcribed in RMC Sport, the Argentine indicated, however, that the result was not down to the Messi-Mbappé-Neymar trio’s difficulties, but rather a lack of solidity across the team.

We know we have to improve. That’s not an issue for me. I’m happy with the forwards’ defensive work. We need to be tougher in other sectors of play. They need playing time to get to know and understand each other; to play together to succeed, but that wasn’t the issue tonight.”

“We weren’t solid enough for a Champions League match. We’re not happy with the result or the performance, we know we have to do better. We have a magnificent group of players, what we need to do now is find a defensive and offensive structure. We need time.”

3) Lionel Messi already a huge financial success for PSG (Wed)

The signing of Lionel Messi by PSG, although potentially a huge on-field boon for the club, is already proving to be an equally important financial asset off it, with Messi’s commercial affect already surpassing projections, report LÉquipe.

Sales of PSG replica shirts baring the Argentine forward’s name and his number 30 are 50% higher than Neymar shirt sales at the same stage of the Brazilian’s stay in Paris, four years ago. This accompanies an overall increase in shirt sales of 30% to 40% compared to recent seasons.

Messi shirts are almost impossible to come by despite regular re-stocks say LÉquipe. As a result, Paris launched a third range of shirts behind the most expensive ‘authentic’ jerseys, identical to those worn by the players, and the traditional replica shirts. Following the American model, these cheaper ‘fan shirts’ cost €45 and are aimed at American and Asian markets.

In the short weeks since Messi’s arrival, PSG have also picked up two major new partners. Firstly, a three year deal with Crypto.com, the world’s leading cryptocurrency platform, worth €25m-€30m. A small part of Messi’s salary is paid in cryptocurrency. Secondly, Christian Dior replaced Hugo Boss as the club’s tailor while all new sponsorship deals are being negotiated at a higher start point say the sports daily. PSG also garnered 25m more social media followers, across various platforms, in the month following Messi’s arrival, taking PSG’s total followership to 140m.

The 34-year-old’s arrival in Paris was expected to encourage a significant uptick in sponsorship, shirt sales and even Paris tourism but, even without starting a game so far, the ‘Messi Effect’ is already in full swing.

4) Didier Deschamps’ libel case against Éric Cantona dismissed (Mon)

L’Équipe report this evening that France manager Didier Deschamps has seen his lawsuit against Éric Cantona for libel dismissed after an appeal. The former Manchester United forward had claimed that Deschamps had not been selecting Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa because of their North African origins.

The case was originally invalidated for the first time last December, with Cantona’s comments coming on the eve of Euro 2016 in an interview with The Guardian.

The Paris tribunal responsible for the ruling deemed that the scope of the libel was not clearly defined. The footballer-turned-actor’s lawyer went on to declare that Cantona considered the case to be “baseless” and that he had always “taken responsibility for his words”.

5) Jaume Roures on the Mediapro deal collapse: “We didn’t throw in the towel.” (Thurs)

Speaking this Thursday morning, Mediapro president Jaume Roures appeared before the French national assembly to explain his company’s role in the collapse of a multi-billion euro broadcasting deal for Ligue 1 last year.

His words transcribed in L’Équipe, the Catalan began by announcing that he was under no obligation to be there, especially as “it was raining all day in Paris, while it’s 29 degrees in Barcelona”. The Catalan insisted that he was not responsible for the fiasco that hit French football as a whole.

“We didn’t throw in the towel. I never do so, whether that’s on a professional or personal level. Everyone was able to negotiate with all of the leagues around the world at that time [before the start of last season] except for us and the LFP [governing body of France’s professional leagues]. When we sat down, we asked for a discount of €200m – €7m per Ligue 1 club and €3m per Ligue 2 side. It would have meant that players would have had to settle for a Maserati instead of a Ferrari.”

“We were prevented from negotiating even though we made offers, like extending the contract to six years by including Canal in it. And the €200m figure was only during the Covid-19 pandemic. But that wasn’t possible and we went through a mediation process.”

Nevertheless, the LFP has countered this version of events:

“Mediapro had placed itself under the protection of the commercial tribunal of Nanterre, without telling us. This meant that we couldn’t force them to pay us anymore. How can you negotiate with someone who in any case doesn’t need to pay? The truth is that they never would have. They kept telling us that they were going bankrupt.” 

Roures went on to criticise Canal’s behaviour during these negotiations:

“Canal+’s stance is to say “it’s me or it’s chaos”. Over the course of 2019, we have meetings with all of the operators, with BeIN Sports as well. For five months, from February to July, we also had work meetings with Canal, in Paris and Barcelona, with confidentiality agreements. Canal had the chance to show one of our games as an exclusive all the while distributing our channel. We couldn’t find an agreement after those five months.”

“Look at Canal’s attitude with regard to the league after we left. It was unbearable pressure with phantom offers, before tightening the knot for the best price. And it ended up with €250m per season for Amazon. What was Canal’s reaction then? That of a spoilt child: I’m angry and I’m leaving football. A few months earlier, they’d picked up a third of our games for €35m. It’s incredible! And then they took the league to court. The LFP didn’t just choose Amazon for its financial solidity, but also to be able to exist and not be subject to Canal’s tantrums.”

“There are no financial guarantees in football broadcasting deals. Nobody will put down a guarantee of €3bn-€4bn. There’s no such thing. What everyone does is give a guarantee from the parent company or the holding. The other tradition in the sector is to sometimes give an advance of 10-15%. We paid €176m three weeks before the league began.”

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