The French top flight football league, Ligue 1, has failed in its attempt to auction four television rights packages for the 2021-2024 cycle, raising financial concerns for the league.
Mediapro, Ligue 1's former broadcasting partner, returned the rights last year, which started in October after the broadcaster stopped and refused to pay any longer.
Several clubs have reported that the media rights saga has plunged them into severe financial difficulty that has the potential to see them fall into bankruptcy and has seen them start to negotiate pay cuts with their players.
In a statement, Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) claimed that it had received bids from Amazon, Discovery (the owner of Eurosport) and streaming service DAZN, however, the bids were not deemed valuable enough for the Ligue 1.
"The LFP will take 48 hours to determine the next steps in commercialising its TV rights," the statement added.
The auctions failure can be linked back to bids not being submitted from previous long-term broadcast partner Canal Plus and beIN Sports. Canal Plus was moved aside for the incoming Mediapro in 2018, who raised the total price of the media rights by 60 per cent to over €1 billion. This was shortly followed by beIN Sports' acquisition of a smaller package of rights and a licensing deal worth €330 million with Canal Plus to allow access to matches.
Mediapro were set to launch a new channel called Telefoot, which was scrapped after the COVID-19 pandemic swept across Europe and disrupted sport with it. Once the broadcaster stopped paying for the rights, the battle was taken into the courts where it was agreed that Mediapro would hand back the rights and only pay a small portion of what it owed the league, causing financial stress amongst Ligue 1's 20 clubs.
The saga continued when Canal Plus launched a lawsuit of their own against LFP, in an attempt to suggest that the league should take back the rights it had licensed from beIN Sports. It was argued by Canal that it should resell all of the rights again so as to not be in an agreement on the 2018 inflated prices.
LFP pressed ahead on the auction, refusing the arguments made by Canal Plus, which failed on Monday evening (February 1).
Ligue 1's media rights debacle is still far from over, with a court hearing expected on February 19 for Canal Plus against the league, as well as its fight to secure a broadcaster for its games.
Author: Jake Wilkin