France’s football league is terminating its deal with troubled TV partner Mediapro after a bitter two-month standoff over the rights for Ligue 1, a source with knowledge of the contract said Friday.
The decision is likely to send financial shockwaves through France’s top-flight league.
“I’m worried about the financial stability of the clubs,” said Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas.
The Chinese-Spanish broadcaster, which has suffered severe financial problems, acquired 80 percent of the rights for 800 million euros ($970 million) a year to broadcast from this season, a record for French football.
But since October, Mediapro has been in negotiations with the league (LFP), pushing for a reduction in the amount it pays.
The source said LFP’s board met on Friday to discuss the decision, which must still be approved by a commercial court.
“It’s a double blow,” said Lyon manager Rudi Garcia pointing out that the clubs had already lost money when the conclusion of last season was wiped out by the coronavirus.
“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.”
Many observers believe Mediapro overstretched itself in making the offer.
In October, its boss Jaume Roures said Telefoot had 600,000 subscribers, far short of the 3.5 million that it had built into its business model.
A journalist working for Telefoot, the channel that Mediapro created to show Ligue 1, told AFP that 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.
Mediapro declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
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 its offer will likely be considerably lower than Mediapro offered.
Telefoot promised that 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.
“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,” he said.
“Already that there are no spectators, if on top of that there is no more football on television.”