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LFP avoided a ‘catastrophe’ in domestic tender, Thiriez says

Frédéric Thiriez, president of the French football league, the Ligue de Football Professionnel, said that the total income generated by the tender for the next cycle of domestic rights covering the country’s top division, Ligue 1, was “not satisfactory” but not a “catastrophe.”

“We feared the worst about the outcome of the negotiations,” Thiriez said. “The result is not satisfactory, but a catastrophe was avoided… [despite] the almost complete withdrawal of [telecommunications company] Orange and the partial withdrawal of [pay-television broadcaster] Canal Plus.”

The league generated €607 million ($768 million) per year from the sale of rights covering four seasons, from 2012-13 to 2015-16 – down from €668 million per year from the current cycle, from 2008-09 to 2011-12.

“The decline was partially offset by an increase in international rights fees, from €17 million [per year] to €31.5 million [per year] and the rights covering [second-tier] Ligue 2 increasing from €13 million [per year] to €18 million per year,” Thiriez added. “So the total decline in income [covering domestic and international rights for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2] was €40 million per year – about six per cent.”

Thiriez said that the decrease in domestic income could be partly explained by Orange spending considerably less on mobile rights in the new cycle. The telco, which reportedly agreed to pay €60 million per year for the rights in the current cycle, will pay €25 million per year for the rights from the start of the 2012-13 season. However, the contract with Orange includes a clause that could allow another company to replace the telco as the mobile rights-holder at the end of the 2012-13 season, according to Thiriez.

The league’s president also said that the rights deals with beIN Sport, Al Jazeera’s new French pay-television operation, include the potential for higher fee payments if there is a “significant increase” in the number of subscribers to the service in the final two seasons of the cycle.

Thiriez said that Al Jazeera had taken a “considerable economic bet on France” by acquiring rights for Ligue 1 and other top sporting properties. He added that Al Jazeera would “need at least five years to succeed” in France, which should ensure that the broadcaster participates in the tender for the 2016-17 to 2019-20 rights cycle.

UPDATED ON 16 AUGUST 2012 TO CHANGE LIGUE 1 INCOME IN NEW CYCLE TO €607 MILLION PER YEAR, FROM €606 MILLION