French football clubs fear financial hit from Mediapro withdrawal


French Ligue 1 clubs fear severe financial shortfalls after the league terminated its deal with troubled TV partner Mediapro following a bitter standoff.

The decision has sent shockwaves through French football.

“I’m worried about the financial stability of the clubs,” Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas said Friday.

Mediapro, a Chinese-Spanish broadcaster, has suffered deep financial problems since acquiring 80 percent of the rights for 800 million euros ($970 million) a year to broadcast from this season, in a record deal for football in France.

Many observers believe Mediapro overstretched itself in striking the deal.

In October, its boss Jaume Roures said Telefoot, the channel Mediapro created to show Ligue 1, had 600,000 subscribers, far short of the 3.5 million it had built into its business model.

Since October, the company has been in negotiations with the league (LFP), pushing for a reduction in the amount it pays.

But on Friday, Mediapro confirmed it had reached an agreement with the LFP to withdraw from their contract.

Mediapro and the LFP have “jointly defined the terms of an agreement which will lead to the recovery of the broadcasting rights for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches by the LFP in the near future,” the group said in a statement.

The agreement will now be submitted to a commercial court “in the coming days” with a view to entering into force “as soon as possible”.

French broadcaster Canal Plus, which already shows a limited number of Ligue 1 matches, is believed to be waiting in the wings to make an offer to take over Mediapro’s matches, although it is likely to make a cut-price offer to ride to the rescue.

Ligue 1 clubs that are already counting the cost of a curtailed 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and the loss of revenue from the absence of spectators, are now facing another financial hole.

“It’s a double blow,” said Lyon boss Rudi Garcia.

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“Not only did we not receive all the TV money we should have with last season’s early end, but on top of that we won’t receive the billion we had counted on when we planned to start this season early.”

A Telefoot journalist told AFP the channel’s director general Julien Bergeaud had addressed employees on Friday in a video call.

“Bergeaud told us it’s over – he was very emotional and on the verge of tears,” the journalist, who asked not to be identified, said.

Telefoot promised it would continue to broadcast Ligue 1 “at least until 23 December”.

Jean-Louis Gasset, the Bordeaux coach, was worried about what would happen after that at a time when fans are still banned from games because of the risk of Covid-19.

“In the current economic situation, we give a little balm to people’s hearts,” Gasset said.

“We’re going to have to find a quick solution, so that people can watch the matches as soon as possible.”

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