Ligue 2 expansion agreed as additional €25m TV rights share proposed

The French Football League (LFP) has voted in favour of expanding Ligue 2 from 20 to 22 teams for the 2020-21 season, while Ligue 1 clubs are ready to offer their lower league compatriots an additional €25m ($27.4m) share of revenue from broadcast rights.

Expansion of Ligue 2 came following an LFP general assembly meeting of clubs from the top two tiers held yesterday (Wednesday). Some 57 per cent of clubs are said to have voted in favour of the reform, which has to be approved by the French Football Federation (FFF).

For the 2020-21 season, it means that no Ligue 2 club will be relegated to the third-tier National league from the 2019-20 campaign, while the top two teams from the National are promoted. This means that Orléans and Le Mans remain in Ligue 2 for 2020-21, while Pau and Dunkerque come up from the National.

Promotion and relegation between Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 will be maintained on a two-up, two-down basis, with the top tier remaining a 20-team league.

The LFP ended the 2019-20 domestic season after Philippe ruled that no professional sport could be played in the country until September. The LFP used an average points-per-game system to determine league positions, meaning that Paris Saint-Germain was crowned Ligue 1 champion and Amiens and Toulouse were relegated. Lorient and RC Lens will be promoted from the second-tier Ligue 2.

Meanwhile, the LFP plans to grant an additional €25m in broadcast rights income to Ligue 2 clubs, according to L’Equipe and AFP. This would be on top of the maximum of  €110m that is currently shared between the second-tier teams each season. Ligue 2 clubs had been pushing to remove this cap.

Representatives of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 have until June 20 to agree on governance reforms in order for the additional funding plan to be approved.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Ligue 1 clubs had agreed to an equal division of the increase in annual media-rights revenue they will receive during the 2020-24 cycle.

The top-tier clubs will earn nearly €1.2bn per season for their domestic broadcast rights from 2020-21 to 2023-24 in deals with the Spanish Mediapro agency, pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports, and telco Iliad. This marks a rise of over 60 per cent from the €726.5m per season earned from 2016-17 to 2019-20 in deals with Canal Plus and beIN.

The decision to equally distribute the €444.5m per season revenue increase was reportedly ratified by 19 out of the 20 Ligue 1 clubs, subject to final ratification by the LFP. Nine higher-profile Ligue 1 clubs (PSG, Lyon, Marseille, Saint-Étienne, Monaco, Bordeaux, Rennes, Lille and Nice) are said to have agreed to the equal distribution in return for sole access to the international rights revenues.

Qatar-headquartered beIN holds the Ligue 1 international rights in a six-year deal from 2018-19 to 2023-24 worth an average of €80m per season. The clubs and the LFP have been trying to renegotiate the contract as they say it undervalues the rights.

A working group was reportedly created yesterday bringing together the presidents of the two leagues, under the direction of FFF president Noël Le Graët, in an effort to reach an agreement by June 20.

Meanwhile, the terms of implementation for a state-guaranteed loan were agreed.

Earlier this month, the LFP adopted a resolution enabling the league to take out the loan to make up for the shortfall in broadcast rights monies caused by the termination of the 2019-20 season.

The loan of €224.5m compensates for the broadcast rights sum that would have been paid by Canal Plus and beIN Sports. The loan will cover rights fee payments that were due on 5 April and June 5 in order to ease clubs’ cash flow concerns.

Canal Plus earlier informed the LFP that it would be terminating its agreement. The broadcaster acted swiftly after French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe told the French parliament that the current seasons of professional sports, including football, would not be able to resume because of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.