LFP retains 20-team Ligue 1 after calendar and TV rights considerations

The French Professional League (LFP) has voted to maintain a 20-team top division during the 2020-21 season, citing the impact on the calendar and broadcast rights contracts among its reasons for doing so.

Following the ruling by the Conseil d’État, France’s highest administrative court, to suspend the relegation of Amiens and Toulouse from Ligue 1, the LFP’s executive board met today (Friday) to vote on proposals.

The LFP said that there were 23 votes for the retention of a 20-team league and two abstentions with the proposal now requiring ratification at the league’s general assembly on June 23.

The LFP decided to end the 2019-20 Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons in April due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, Amiens and Toulouse, the bottom two teams in Ligue 1 at the time, were relegated to the second tier.

In a statement, the LFP said today: “This resolution was passed after a thorough review of the issues around a Ligue 1 with 20, 21 or 22 clubs on the 2020/2021 competition calendar after receiving the opinion of the joint calendar committee of the FFF [French Football Federation]/LFP, and the consequences on the health of the players.

“The review also examined the financial impacts, the distribution of audiovisual rights and the contractual repercussions with Ligue 1 broadcasters.”

Spanish agency and production group Mediapro will hold the bulk of the live Ligue 1 rights next season as new contracts from 2020-21 to 2023-24 take effect.

Mediapro holds rights to eight matches per match week, paying €780m ($873m) per season, while pay-television beIN Sports acquired the rights to two matches, for which it agreed to pay €330m per season. However, beIN has since sublicensed its rights to pay-television broadcaster Canal Plus.

Mediapro said recently that a 22-team top flight “would not be a problem” for either itself or its new subscription television service, Téléfoot, which will broadcast both top-tier and Ligue 2 matches during the new cycle.

It was reported by L’Équipe that Amiens indirectly approached Mediapro to ascertain its position on a 22-club Ligue 1 after both it and Toulouse were told by various parties that the agency would not look favourably upon an expanded league given increased production costs.

Amiens, which was four points from safety when the league was suspended, had launched legal action over the LFP’s decision. Olympique Lyonnais, which finished seventh and therefore missed out on a place in the Uefa Europa League, also launched legal action of its own. Although the Conseil d’État rejected Lyon’s appeal against the decision to terminate the season, it suspended the relegations of Amiens and Toulouse.

The final Ligue 1 standings were determined on a points-per-game basis, with Paris Saint-Germain declared champions for the seventh time in eight years. The points-per-game model did not result in any changes to the table at the point of suspension.

Fresh branding for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2

Meanwhile, the LFP today unveiled new logos for the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 as new title sponsors come on board.

Food delivery company Uber Eats is the new title sponsor of Ligue 1 while Indian specialist tyre company BKT is the incoming title sponsor of the second tier.

The LFP said: “Branding of the top two divisions in French football have been modernised to mark the entry into a new cycle of media partnerships and sponsorship, and to accompany the arrival of Uber Eats and BKT as title partners of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, respectively.

“From logos to TV graphics, including jersey branding and ticketing, this project reinvigorates the entire brand, inspired by the trophies, which are strong championship-specific symbols, while also providing a new graphic orientation.

“More modern, easily identifiable and enhancing the prominence of the title sponsors, these two new visual identities increase impact and thus contribute to promoting French professional football: its history, its excitement and its passionate rivalries. They will be deployed on all pitches and all screens when competition resumes.”

The new brands were conceived together with design agency Dragon Rouge.

Didier Quillot, executive director of the LFP, said: “We are very pleased to present today the new visual identities of our two professional leagues. It is an important first step which marks the launch of the 2020/21 season and the arrival of major world brands as the title sponsors of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2. With Uber Eats and BKT, French professional football will continue its commercial development not only in France but also internationally.”