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Aulas ‘threatens beIN legal action’ over Ligue 1 international rights row

Jean-Michel Aulas, the president of Olympique Lyonnais, has reportedly raised the prospect of the French Football League (LFP) suing pay-television broadcaster beIN Media Group in an escalation of the argument over the valuation of Ligue 1 international rights.

Aulas broached the possibility in a meeting of Ligue 1 clubs last week, according to French newspaper, L’Équipe.

Qatar-headquartered beIN holds the Ligue 1 international rights in six-year deal from 2018-19 to 2023-24 worth an average of €80m ($86.5m) per season. The deal was agreed in 2014.

The clubs and the LFP have been trying to renegotiate the contract as they say it undervalues the rights, particularly given the 2020-21 to 2023-24 domestic rights are worth a total of nearly €1.2bn per season in deals with Spanish agency and production house Mediapro, beIN and Free Mobile.

Ligue 1 club presidents also continue to look on with envy at not only the Premier League’s vastly superior international rights revenue, but also that of LaLiga, Serie A and the Bundesliga.

Aulas’ reported intervention raises the stakes in the ongoing spat, although no decision has yet been made, according to the report. Judicial proceedings would need to be sanctioned by the LFP board.

Talks between the LFP and beIN first began in 2018 and stories about the clubs’ dissatisfaction first emerged in the French press at the 2018 Sportel trade fair in Monaco.

The pay-TV broadcaster first acquired the Ligue 1 international rights in 2012-13, replacing previous rights distributor Canal Plus Events. BeIN then appointed the MP & Silva agency to sell the rights in various international markets.

At the time of announcing the extension in 2014, the LFP said that it would share revenues with beIN on a 50-50 basis once the minimum guarantee sum had been met. The deal was praised at the time in the French media given it represented a 146-per-cent increase on the value of the previous agreement.

BeIN will sublicense its domestic Ligue 1 rights from next season to pay-television broadcaster Canal Plus as part of an exclusive distribution deal between the companies.