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View from France: Ligue 1 cancellation a mess but nothing will change

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ByPete Sharland
29/05/2020 at 14:39 | Updated 29/05/2020 at 14:50
@PeteSharland

With so many top leagues resuming Ligue 1 stands out as having moved early to cancel the season. To try and get a better picture we spoke to our colleague from Eurosport France Maxime Dupuis…

WHAT HAPPENED?

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Actually it’s more about what happened a while ago and therefore what isn’t happening now.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit sports league across the globe suspended their seasons, planning to resume when it was deemed safe.

Yet in Europe’s top five football leagues France’s Ligue 1 stood out, moving early to cancel the season and assign the title and European spots as well as promotion and relegation.

Now the rest of Europe is getting ready to resume their championships (Germany already have) but France will have to sit and wait.

It was perhaps best summed up by Thursday evening’s front cover of L’Equipe.

It echoes statements from Lyon’s famously vocal chairman Jean-Michel Aulas, who has been vociferous in his belief that it was the wrong decision to cancel the season.

SO IS ALL OF FRANCE ANNOYED?

But is that a true reflection of that actually is the mood in France? “It’s a mixed feeling,” says Dupuis. “I’m not sure everybody agrees with Aulas but questions are certainly being asked.”

Of course as is so often the case everyone is looking out for themselves especially, as Dupuis points out, Aulas.

“He was the loudest voice, by far. Because of the situation of his club.

“And, for instance, the president of Brest said before the decision that it would be a good decision to stop.

“Why? Because his club was in danger and had a tiny part of the tv rights to earn.”

NOT EVERYONE AGREES

Of course not everyone is clamouring for a return, for a variety of reasons.

“Marseille was ok to stop the championship because they were… second,” says Dupuis.

“Everybody, except few voices, were defending their house, exclusively, without thinking about the superior interest of the French football.

“The other problem is that the league is really, really weak. When there was a negotiation for Canal Plus, for the TV rights, the people from the league were not invited…”

As sport returns across the world, some people feel that it is the right time, some people feel that it is too soon and some feel it is too late.

In France it is the same and amongst others Montpellier forward Andy Delort tweeted in reply to Aulas trying to get across the gravitiy of the coronavirus situation.

SO WILL THERE BE A CHANGE?

There had been some speculation following announcements made by the French government that there would be a reversal of the decision.

From June 2 clubs will be allowed to resume training as there is still a plan for the Champions League, Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue all to be concluded.

Lyon are involved in two of those competitions so unsurprisingly Aulas is getting pretty angsty about the league cancelled.

In a statement released on Lyon’s website the club said that “The authorization given to professional clubs to resume training from 2 June confirms that the decision to stop the competitions was hasty, premature and contrary to UEFA recommendations, as the club has constantly emphasized since this decision this decision on April 30.

“The Prime Minister having reconfirmed that the decision to stop had been taken by the league, Olympique Lyonnais is worried about this disastrous decision for French professional football.”

The statement adds later that Lyon “also hope that the league which has the hand on this decision will reconsider its decision and this is in the interest of all the French clubs of which some wish, and not only Olympique Lyonnais, that the championship can end in sporting merit , with playoffs possibly as suggested by UEFA on 23 April to professional leagues and associations.”

As far as Aulas is concerned he feels that if all French clubs return to training in early June then they could look to start playing again in July.

But is that realistic?

“No,” says Dupuis. “You can’t say to PSG ‘Oh, you’re not champion anymore!”, or to Marseille ‘you’re not in the Champions League anymore”, or to Lens ‘you’re not promoted anymore”.

“Plus the prime minister said no yesterday night.”

when the decision to cancel the season was taken there is no really obvious solution to the problem, particularly when one club, Montpellier, has been so severely affected. Perhaps it was the right decision to cancel the season after all…

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