Football Sports

Ligue 1 clubs unanimous to retain 20-team format

In the wake of legal action against France top-flight from its relegated clubs, French clubs have voted to maintain the Ligue 1 at 20 teams for the next season, a unanimous decision that ends Amiens’ and Toulouse’s hopes of avoiding relegation. In early April, the league was declared cancelled in accordance to France government’s decision to prohibit sports activities due to the threat of the pandemic.

In a statement following the General Assembly of the French Professional League (LFP) last week, the league said the resolution proposed by the Board of Directors was “adopted by a 74.49%” majority of ballots. “This vote came after an in-depth examination of the sports challenges of a Ligue 1 to 20, 21 or 22 clubs on the 2020-2021 competition calendar and the consequences on the players’ health.”

The statement added: “Following this decision and at the end of the Federal Assembly of the FFF on 26 June, the LFP will convene on 26 June a Board of Directors which will adopt the general calendar of competitions for the 2020-2021 season.” Paris Saint-Germain has been named French Ligue 1 champion, while Amiens and Toulouse have been relegated to Ligue 2.

The two clubs finished in 19th and 20th place receptively in Ligue 1. Toulouse, cemented the bottom place for a while, and with only three wins and 13 points from 28 games, was 14 points from avoiding the relegation. Amiens was 10 points clear out of the relegation, but still four points away from the lifeline of a playoff spot. Lorient and Lens were promoted in their place.

Shortly after the announcement, both relegated clubs, as well as Olympique Lyonnais, who were fifth a week before the last match day, but finished seventh, have announced that they will reserve the right to appeal the decision. These teams went all the way to court to argue that their relegation from the top flight was “unjust” and “arbitrary”, and proposed a 22-team league next season.

Earlier this month, France’s highest administrative court suspended the relegations of Amiens and Toulouse to the second division, ordering the French league to rethink the format of the 2020-21 season before the end of June. However, the recent assembly reaffirms the number of clubs eligible to play in Ligue 1 at 20, ruling out the proposal of the relegated clubs.

“The study also looked into the financial impact, the distribution of broadcast rights and the repercussions on contracts with broadcasters.” further read a statement released by the LFP. Ligue 1 recently signed a lucrative new TV rights contract with Spanish broadcaster Mediapro, which is worth a record 1.15 billion euros per year. Enditem

In April, France government under Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that major sports fixtures, including those behind closed doors, will not be permitted to return before September. Currently, the rest of Europe’s top five leagues – the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga and Spain’s LaLiga – restarted their 2019-20 seasons behind closed doors.