Roxana Mărăcineanu, the Minister of Sports of France, has proposed that the country’s mediator for economic and financial affairs attempts to resolve the dispute over rights fee payments between the Professional Football League (LFP) and pay-television broadcasters Canal Plus and beIN Sports.
The LFP was dealt successive blows in March as first Canal Plus and then beIN informed the league that rights payments would be suspended until Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches resumed after the shutdown imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A four-strong contingent of Ligue 1 presidents was assembled to negotiate with Canal Plus but a consensus has not yet been reached, prompting the intervention of Mărăcineanu.
She told L’Équipe: “I propose that the LFP and the broadcasters should involve, if they wish, the financial mediator of Bercy to try to resolve the disagreement over the payment of TV rights that currently brings them into opposition.”
Christophe Baulinet was named France’s mediator for economic and financial affairs in 2016.
Mărăcineanu added: “If they agree, the mediation will take place around the table at the Ministry of Economy but that is not an obligation.
“Today, more than ever, we need goodwill on the part of each other to ensure that the spirit of the contract is respected and people can come to an agreement. I think this crisis is the least good time to settle scores.
“There are questions about the economic survival of sport, even if they are not to be put on the same level as those of the people who face the challenge of Covid-19 on a daily basis.”
Canal Plus and beIN both warned the LFP that they would not be making their latest rights fee instalments due on April 5. These amounted to €110m and €42m, respectively.
The Vivendi-owned broadcaster and beIN pay a combined €748.5m on average per season for rights to Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 from 2016-17 to 2019-20.
Eyebrows were raised when Nasser al-Khelaïfi, the Paris Saint-Germain president and beIN Media Group chairman, was named as part of the team to negotiate with Canal Plus given the close relationship between the two broadcasters. The other club representatives are Jacques-Henri Eyraud (Marseille), Olivier Sadran (Toulouse) and Jean-Pierre Rivère (Nice).
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.
The appointment of al-Khelaïfi was recently criticised by Jaume Roures, chief executive of Mediapro, the Spanish agency and production group launching channels in France to showcase the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 rights from next season onwards.
He told L’Equipe: “It’s incomprehensible. The attitude of Canal and beIN towards the League is also that of Nasser. We’re not talking about an outsider who appears to have come out of nowhere.
“BeIN has signed a strategic agreement with Canal, has ceded all its channels to Canal for exclusive distribution. They sold a [rights] package that they had for next season to Canal…there is a strategic alliance between the two. And beIN is [now] not paying either…it’s astonishing, if not ridiculous.”