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LFP dealt further blow as beIN suspends rights payments

Pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports has informed the French Professional League (LFP) that it is suspending its payments for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 rights until the competitions resume.

The move follows a similar stance taken by the Vivendi-owned Canal Plus over its forthcoming payments and will heighten the financial pressure felt by French clubs amidst the commercial fallout from the global lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

An advance payment of €42m ($45.3m) was due to be paid by beIN on April 5 but the broadcaster has sent a letter to the LFP informing it of its decision, after “careful consideration”, not to make the payment given ongoing uncertainty over when matches will resume.

The letter addressed to LFP chief executive Didier Quillot and seen by SportBusiness explains beIN’s decision is the result of the “total lack of real visibility on the actual resumption of matches in the current season”.

Yousef Al-Obaidly, chief executive of beIN Sports France, writes in the letter sent yesterday (Wednesday) that the situation has “just been aggravated by the [government] decision to maintain confinement for an additional period of two weeks [until at least April 15]”.

The broadcaster has decided to suspend the next payments, Al-Obaidly said, until Ligue 1 and 2 matches can resume “according to a schedule allowing their normal broadcast for our subscribers”.

A further rights fee payment of €55m was also due to be paid by beIN on June 5.

The top two divisions of French football have been suspended since March 13 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The stances taken by Canal Plus and now beIN are the latest examples of rights-holding broadcasters refusing to make rights payments with their live programming portfolios currently decimated.

Nordic pay-television broadcaster Nent was the first to say publicly that it would not be paying any rights fees for postponed properties until they recommence. DAZN, the international subscription streaming platform, has informed rights-holders this week that it would not be making its next rights fee payments for any content that has yet to be delivered.

Canal Plus has cited force majeure as the basis for its refusal to pay its €110m rights fee instalment.

The broadcaster told the AFP that the LFP’s suspension of football fixtures due to the Covid-19 pandemic was a “perfect example” of force majeure.

It said: “There are no more matches, so there are no more payments. We are strictly applying the terms of the contract and we don’t see why we would do it any other way. Canal Plus is not a bank.”

The LFP’s deals with Canal Plus and beIN Sports for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 are worth a combined €748.5m on average per season from 2016-17 to 2019-20. The Ligue 1 rights represent €726.5m, or 97 per cent, of that sum, with the broadcasters’ Ligue 2 rights deals worth a total of €22m per season.

Canal Plus has sublicensed rights to two Ligue 1 matches per matchday from beIN for the 2020-21 to 2023-24 cycle as part of a wide-ranging distribution and sublicensing agreement. Spanish agency and broadcaster Mediapro holds the rights to the bulk of Ligue 1 matches over the new cycle and is to launch a new pay-television service in France.

The LFP recently gave Canal Plus and beIN Sports access to a host of archive content following the postponement of the league.