June 15, 2021

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Break between Mediapro and the League, French football forced to reinvent itself

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French football believed in Father Christmas. A few days before the distribution of the gifts, it is a good big almost empty package that he will find under the tree. The Professional Football League (LFP) and the Sino-Spanish group Mediapro reached an agreement on December 10 to definitively bury their contract signed in 2018.

→ THE FACTS. Football: TV rights, the League terminates the contract with Mediapro

Mediapro promised 814 million euros annually to the LFP, which in total, over the period 2020-2024, guaranteed French football a jackpot of 1.19 billion euros in annual television rights (with 330 million Canal + and 50 million more Free). But the magnificent mirage has dissipated in this return with Mediapro’s desire to renegotiate the case, and its decision not to honor its payments of October 5 (172.3 million euros) and December 5 (152, 5000000).

500 million euros shortfall

With the break, the LFP says goodbye to these 324.8 million euros. Rather than launching into a long-term legal dispute, his new boss, Vincent Labrune, preferred to negotiate an “amicable” solution: Mediapro cedes its rights, and promises to settle compensation of 100 million euros. First before December 18, 64 million euros, “Condition precedent to approval” of the rupture which the court of Nanterre must examine. Then 36 million more in the first half of 2021.

→ DEBATE. Can French football go bankrupt?

Keep your fingers crossed, hoping that Mediapro opens its wallet this time without barguigning. Then to save the furniture. With these 100 million and the loan guaranteed by the State of 120 million euros taken out by the LFP in early December, the body can provide for the months to come. Without dawdling to find a replacement for Mediapro which, before closing its Téléfoot channel, should ensure the broadcasting of the matches until the end of January. (read above).

In an emergency, a name is needed to avoid a new long and expensive call for tenders: Canal +. The former privileged partner of the LFP is in a strong position. According to the daily The team, he has already mentioned the possibility of betting 590 million euros annually, with 100 million additional in the event of a satisfactory increase in its subscriptions. The calculation is quick: it is 500 million euros per year that the LFP and the French clubs can lose.

With the mirific contract of Mediapro, Ligue 1 rose to the level of the major European championships. The English Premier League’s domestic television rights reach € 1.9 billion, € 1.16 billion for the German Bundesliga, 1.14 billion for the Spanish Liga and 973 million for the Italian Serie A. Is Ligue 1 at risk of dropping out?

Rediscover attractiveness and seduce the foreigner

This is obviously what the clubs, whose leaders have been crying out loud for weeks, fear. PSG president Nasser Al Khelaïfi even asks for a “Investigation” to determine the responsibilities in this fiasco. At least can he argue that he judged in 2018 that Mediapro was “A bad choice”, when most presidents applauded and congratulated themselves on the bride’s formidable dowry.

→ READ. Football: which channel for which match? The TV rights puzzle

The shortfall today falls at the worst time, with a pandemic which is drying up the ticket offices of stadiums forced into camera and disrupting the transfer market. The crisis makes it more than ever necessary to question French football. In the current conditions of fragmentation of broadcasting and audiences, Ligue 1 must review its offer to make itself more attractive, motivate the return of supporters to stadiums in the future, and also to sell better abroad.

In this area, the dropout of Ligue 1 on the international market is already obvious. It generates less than 80 million euros in broadcasting rights, three times less than the Bundesliga (240 million), eleven times less than La Liga (897 million) and almost twenty times less than the Premier League (1.5 billion) . The study of the creation of a commercial company to better manage the economic activities of the LFP has just been launched. The work is long term, because it requires modifying the statutes of the LFP.

In the meantime, the clubs can also wonder about a stall which did not wait for the Mediapro fiasco to be revealed on the lawn. The start of the European campaign for the French teams this season is the worst in ten years, with two clubs qualified (PSG and Lille) but four other rolled (Marseille, Rennes, Nice and Reims) with catastrophic results. To grow up, French football can no longer afford to believe in Santa Claus.

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End of the game for Téléfoot

The termination of the contract between the LFP and Mediapro also spells the death knell for the Téléfoot channel, born barely four months ago and which had 150 employees including 60 journalists. The 600,000 subscribers claimed by Mediapro (which hoped 3.5 million to be profitable) will not find themselves in front of a black screen. The matches should be broadcast until the arrival of another broadcaster, the LFP hoping to reach a new agreement before the end of January.

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