Al Jazeera seeks Ligue 2 scheduling approval

Charles Biétry, the vice-president of Al Jazeera’s new pay-television operation in France, said that the broadcaster could withdraw its offer to acquire rights for Ligue 2, the French football league’s second tier, unless a scheduling issue is resolved.

Al Jazeera is close to agreeing a deal with the Ligue de Football Professionnel, the French football league, to show nine matches per week from Ligue 2 on its new BeIN Sport 1 and BeIN Sport 2 pay-television channels.

Al Jazeera wants the league to agree to schedule some Ligue 2 games to start between 6pm and 7pm on Friday nights to enable the broadcaster to follow the coverage by showing a live Ligue 1 match in primetime, according to the ChronoFoot website.

“The rights are being negotiated,” Biétry said. “There is not much disagreement, but just a little problem regarding scheduling and programming. I trust [that]… we will come to an agreement quickly. An agreement will come this week or we could withdraw our offer.”

A coalition of fan groups called SOS Ligue 2 has warned that the move would damage attendances, and Gervais Martel, president of Ligue 2 club RC Lens, said that kicking off games before 7pm would be “catastrophic.”

Jean-Pierre Louvel, president of rival Ligue 2 club Le Havre, added: “We would have preferred things to remain as before, but we must be reasonable, and starting after 7pm is not possible. The negotiations will be tight, but I do not think it is in anyone’s interest to enter into a conflict, and certainly not Al Jazeera, because it is their image at stake.”

Pay-television broadcaster Eurosport France is close to sealing an agreement to show one Monday night Ligue 2 match per week.

The two deals are said to be worth €20 million ($25 million) over four years, from 2012-13 to 2015-16.