Sports

French Ligue 1 abandoned: Several clubs upset over league position decision

Multiple clubs in French’s top division, Ligue 1, have announced they will be appeal the decision to abandon the 2019-20 football season.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe had announced on Tuesday that major sports fixtures – including those behind closed doors – will not be permitted in the country before September.

“The 2019/20 season of professional sport, notably football, won’t be able to return either,” Philippe said, speaking in Parliament about the country’s latest measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday the French League (LFP) announced that the final standings would be based on a points-per game ratio.

The decision means that Paris Saint-Germain have been declared Ligue 1 champions for the third consecutive year, and Lorient have been crowned Ligue 2 champions and will be promoted to the top division with second-place Lens.

PSG said they wished to dedicate the title “to healthcare staff and all the everyday heroes on the front line”.

Meanwhile Amiens and Toulouse have been relegated to Ligue 2.

But both clubs, as well as Olympique Lyonnais, have announced that they will reserve the right to appeal the decision.

Didier Quillot, the chief executive of the LFP acknowledged that clubs might appeal the ruling, but confirmed that their decision was “solid”.

The French Football Federation (FFF) had already decided to put an end to all amateur football in France, as well as the national championships of National 3 and National 2.

The professional football season in France had been suspended indefinitely since March 13.

The LFP had previously raised June 17 as a potential start date, while the FFF had hoped to announce dates for both men’s and women’s cup finals in the near future.

But the French League did confirm their intention to begin the 2020-21 Ligue 1 and 2 seasons on the weekend of August 22-23 at the latest.

No European football for the first time in nearly 25 years

The decision by the LFP means that Lyon who were fifth a week before the last match day, will finish seventh, and out of European competition for the first time since 1996-97.

“Olympique Lyonnais reserves the right to appeal against this decision and claim damages,” the club said in a statement.

“The damage for the club amounts to several tens of millions of euros.”

Lyon say the French government position did not seem to to impose a prohibitive end to the football season.

The club also said that they had proposed that the French League study an “alternative solution” to allow the competition to be completed in line with UEFA “sporting merit” proposals, such as play-offs.

Lyon were still competing in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League when play was halted on April 1.

Meanwhile, Lyon were leading the Division 1 Féminine when play was suspended, but no decision has been announced that the title will be awarded

“We reserve the right to go further so that justice passes”

In a statement on Friday, Amiens said the LFP decision had “extremely heavy consequences” for everyone connected with their club.

Club President Bernard Joannin expressed his disappointment and anger at the announcement in a Facebook live broadcast on Thursday.

“It’s an injustice because Amiens SC were unable to defend their continued presence in Ligue 1 all the way out on the pitch,” said Joannin.

Six of Amiens’ final 10 matches were against teams placed 11th or lower in Ligue 1.

“In the return matches, we played the strongest teams … and our rivals didn’t play them, so there is a relative form of injustice in this decision – sports equity is not respected,” said Joannin.

“I’m going to fight, with all my teams, to assert our rights,” the club president added.

“We will wait for the minutes of this Board of Directors and the General Assembly and we reserve the right to go further.”

Meanwhile, Toulouse President Olivier Sadran has also reportedly sent a letter to the French League protesting the decision.

“I would like to strongly insist here on my position: any decision of relegation based on the provisional classification at the end of the 27th or 28th day … would be unfair, inequitable and unfounded in law,” said Sadran, according to LesViolets.com.

“Any unilateral decision to demote would constitute a sanction not provided for in the applicable regulations,” Sadran continued, adding that Toulouse would challenge the decision before a legal court.

A number of other clubs would also face significant detriments due to the decision.

Strasbourg had played one game fewer than most other teams in Ligue 1, and could theoretically have finished in sixth place to qualify for the UEFA Europa League.

Meanwhile Lille would miss on the lucrative UEFA Champions League by just one point, and in Ligue 2, Ajaccio were just a solitary point away from promotion to Ligue 2.

A precedent for other major European leagues?

Ligue 1 became the third major European competition to make an announcement on abandoning the 2019-20 football season, after the Dutch Eredivisie and the Belgian Pro League.

UEFA have acknowledged that domestic league seasons across Europe may not be finished for “legitimate reasons” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clubs have therefore been urged to “explore all possible options” to finish domestic seasons and use “a different format” if needed.

UEFA say that national associations would need to select clubs to qualify for Europe in 2020-21, if seasons could not be concluded, but reserve the right to “refuse or evaluate” selected teams if necessary.

The announcement by the French League means that Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille and Rennes would be in line for the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League, while Nice and Reims would advance to the UEFA Europa League.

The LFP has a deadline of May 25 to confirm this to UEFA, the same day when European leagues will have to decide on resuming or concluding their seasons.

UEFA had also previously set a deadline of August 2 for domestic competitions in Europe to be completed.

Other countries, including Germany and Portugal, have expressed desires to resume the football season in May, subject to health recommendations.

Dutch top flight football was abandoned on April 24 with no promotion, relegation or title awarded.

Meanwhile, clubs in the Belgian Pro League decided to postpone a decision to vote on abandoning the season until May 4.

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