Yesterday, the French Prime Minister, Edouard Phillipe, announced that “big sporting affairs” will not return until September, essentially ending the 2019-20 Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons.
This announcement is a continuation of the suspension of social and sport events that has been in place across the world since March, but it concludes any hopes of the French league finishing their remaining games.
The leagues governing body, the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP), will likely meet next month to discuss how they will officially conclude the season and settle the issues surrounding Champions League qualifications, promotion, and relegation.
Coming off the back of the Netherlands’ Eredivisie cancelling their season, these two leagues may begin to set a precedent on how the rest of the leagues conclude if their end reuling is similar. The Eredivisie ended their season as the table stood but crowned no champion and all 18 teams will remain in the topflight next season.
While La Liga, the Bundesliga, and the Premiere League have aspirations of completing their games behind closed doors in the coming months, there are plenty of reasons to believe this may not happen. The world is still in a place where many people continue to test positive for COVID-19 daily, and the death tolls continue to rise. Businesses are shut down while towns, cities, and entire countries are shut inside, under strict guidelines. Even Germany, who has done a fairly decent job containing the spread is beginning to see a resurgence in the number of cases, threatening the Bundesliga’s desire to start games as soon as next month.
Meanwhile, we have the UK and Spain who have allowed teams and their players to return to some form of training in the attempt to get games going, despite having a situation that is arguable much worse than Germany’s. Germany has around 160,000 cases with 6,000 deaths compared to the UK’s 163,000 cases and nearly 22,000 deaths. It’s not hard to believe that offering sport would be a first step toward opening cities back up, leading to a spike or resurgence in these numbers.
There is no guarantee that the French League will follow in the footsteps of the Netherlands when they decide how to finish their season, but being one the world’s major leagues, they may very well have an influence on the rest of the world.
Throughout this time, many people have offered potential solutions to the issues of concluding the Premier League if games can’t be finished and the only consistency is that every solution will result in someone feeling as though they drew the short straw. Whether it is settled on points per game or null and void, as the table stands or reverted back to how it stood at 19 games – certain teams are going to feel as though the ruling went against them.
Take this ruling one step further and look at the money that clubs are dependent on to keep themselves running. There has been a suggestion that broadcasters will offer some degree or portion of the money that clubs would have expected from the season which could help to a degree. This may go a long way int supporting some of top tier clubs, but smaller clubs may find themselves struggling to stay above water. Their dependency on match revenue and ticket sales paint a grim picture for them during these times.
The finer points of the French league agreement – how they conclude their season and how the decide European qualifications – could certainly be pointed at down the line by other leagues looking to justify how they end their own season. Similar to players pointing at one another and the PFA when they took a unified action against an initial 30% wage cut, leagues may look to lean on each other as a united front in dealing with the complaints of individual clubs.
It makes sense, it is a lot easier for them to say “sorry” if they can point to the French League, German League, and/or Spanish League and say, “that’s how they handled it too.” It would be the unapologetic shrug heard around the world that could cost more than a handful of clubs prizes they have worked very hard for. Think Leicester returning to the top 4, Liverpool not crowned champion, or Sheffield United being denied their potential spot in the Europa league.
Given the example set by the Netherlands and some of the more popular decisions, it feels as though some of these teams will be safe from the “null and void” solution, but if Liverpool are denied winning the league after a 30 year drought, their fans will riot.
Nothing is set in stone, but as football looks further away from a return than the Premier League’s intentions may suggest – the French league may foreshadow the future. All eyes will be on the French LFP and their ruling