The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) in France has said it is “appalled” by long-time media-rights partner Canal Plus’s decision to launch legal action against the organisation following a series of match postponements last season due to protests by the ‘yellow vests’ movement.
The league postponed 12 top-tier Ligue 1 matches and one Coupe de la Ligue semi-final on the back of the protests against the political establishment that swept across France in late 2018, bringing travel disruption to several major cities.
The matches had been due to be shown on Canal Plus.
The broadcaster has claimed the LFP took the decisions to rearrange matches from December 7 onwards “unilaterally…without trying to find alternatives” and failed to “involve Canal Plus in the search for a solution”.
In the case, which is set to be heard by the Commercial Court in Paris, Canal Plus says that the games were rescheduled to less favourable time slots for broadcast coverage, with eight of the postponed fixtures shifted from the weekend to midweek.
It is seeking €46m ($51m) after alleging that a higher-than-usual number of subscriptions were not renewed in the period in question. Canal Plus also said that the audiences for the rearranged Ligue 1 meetings were 37-per-cent lower than expected and the audience for the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final between Bordeaux and Strasbourg was 51-per-cent lower than anticipated.
“The postponed matches were organised by the LFP on dates that were particularly unfavourable to Canal Plus,” the company said. “The LFP has caused serious damage to Canal Plus, and it must be repaired.”
The LFP said in a statement on its website that it refutes all of the media company’s allegations.
“The LFP is appalled to receive a summons before the Paris Commercial Court from Canal Plus, a long-time partner of French professional football since 1984,” it said. “Like the clubs and supporters, the LFP suffered for several months due to the consequences of a major social crisis, which affected all sectors of the French economy.
“In this context, the LFP and the clubs, which were in permanent contact with the public authorities and in particular the Ministry of the Interior, adapted to face a new situation and allow the championship to be completed on the scheduled date.”
An LFP spokesperson told SportBusiness Media on Friday: “Aside from our statement, we will not be making any further comment on this matter, and we will leave it to the court to decide.”
Canal Plus did not respond immediately to a request for comment by SportBusiness Media.
The court date has been set for September 5, according to French daily newspaper L’Équipe.
In May 2018, Canal Plus was dislodged as the home of Ligue 1 coverage in France after the LFP opted to strike a domestic rights deal with Spanish agency Mediapro and pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports for the four seasons from 2020-21 to 2023-24.