The world of French football is « on the precipice »

Is French football really threatened with death in the short term?

It remains a fundamentally popular sport played across the world. So football, by definition, cannot die. On the other hand, the current organization of French football through the League and professional clubs is really worrying. Structural deficits that have been left lying around for many years can now lead to club bankruptcies. My goal is not to individually designate particularly exposed clubs but rather to try to understand how they work. It is from this that we can target worrying economic models. When the president of the DNCG evokes the regular contribution of funds by shareholders, even in times of crisis, we can worry about a loss of enthusiasm from them due to the health crisis and that of rights TV. This applies to Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 and to clubs that are too dependent on the contribution of their shareholders but also on trading. These are two irregular and therefore unstable models.

Bio express

Pierre Rondeau was born on August 26, 1987.

He did his studies at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in economics.

Economics specialist sports and football economics, he became a columnist for the Slate site in 2015 and then participated in the 20h foot program on CNews in 2018.

In 2017, he becomes economic adviser to the Socialist Party.

Did the health crisis and the MediaPro flop reveal or amplify the phenomenon?

French and European football was already structurally in imbalance. It is clear that the health crisis and the problem of TV rights have reinforced this imbalance. For too long, it was thought that football could not collapse, because no matter what, there would always be shareholders capable of surplus in the event of an economic deficit. The crisis has exposed and reinforced instability. It still holds, but we are on the precipice.

« The leaders of French clubs have not been careful enough and have bet too much on the popularity of football »

Despite this, French clubs continue to overpay their players to attract or retain them …

They were overpaid before the covid and the MediaPro fiasco, with four or five year contracts. The clubs thought they were going to hit the jackpot with the new TV law contract. Reason why they boosted their payroll. But there is a Labor Code in France which requires signed contracts to be respected. Some would like to establish amicable agreements, impose variability in wages to be able to compensate for losses, but this is not for the moment in the order of things. What is certain is that all players at the end of their contract will be affected by a reduction.

Are TV rights and trading killing football as we love it?

As long as there was a balance (I am thinking of the twenty glorious years from 2000 to 2020), there was nothing to complain about. I had personally warned about the excessive share of TV rights in 2018. Now that we discover that these rights cannot go to the sky and that trading is particularly uncertain, we are starting to criticize the model. It is obvious that we should have taken advantage of the effects of growth to stabilize club budgets and increase equity rather than increase salaries. The leaders of the French clubs were not careful enough and bet too much on the popularity of football, believing that there would always be supporters and investors. Today, the consumer is tired of being taken for a cash cow and the investor realizes that football does not make so much money anymore. In fact, French football believed itself to be more beautiful than it really was. We are still the only ones in Europe to claim to be part of the big 5 (the 5 best championships in Europe) while everyone else is talking about the big 4 (England, Germany, Spain, Italy)!

Is there a risk that football lovers will end up shying away from their « darling sport », as you call it?

What is certain is that people will continue to follow the clubs. But where and especially at what price? We will see it with the arrival of Amazon. Let’s not forget that French spectators are used to watching matches on pirated sites. By turning away from paying sites, they paradoxically contribute to the leveling down of football’s means, and therefore of the level.

Did the clubs finally choose to economically do without their supporters?

It is certain that they no longer count on the one who takes a place in the popular! Very pragmatically, they calculated that a 20,000-seat stadium at 20 euros entry, that made 400,000 in revenue and that at 19 matches, that makes 7.6 million euros. At the same time, TV law guarantees you 20 million euros, regardless of your place. The calculation is quickly done and we put aside the support, which in addition can be critical vis-à-vis the direction. But the supporter has the legitimate feeling of being more important since he has always been there, regardless of the leaders.

“We can also imagine a TV law ratio that does not exceed 55% of a club’s budget, a decrease in the number of professional clubs and of course a reform of the League”

What are the serious avenues to avoid shipwreck?

I will be in favor of the retransmission of a certain number of matches in the clear so that all the amateurs have access to them. This is the case for Formula 1. It could have a gondola head effect. It would then be necessary to have a law making it possible to truly fight against the use of pirate sites, as the Spanish and the English did. This dynamic injunction allows the judge to immediately stop a clandestine distribution. We can also imagine a TV law ratio that does not exceed 55% of a club’s budget, a decrease in the number of professional clubs and of course a reform of the League. For the last call for tenders for TV rights, the only objective set for its leaders was to exceed one billion euros, without further consideration, while it depends on the Federation whose mission is to provide a public service. But it is the sports code as a whole that needs to be reformed. The law prohibits, for example, negotiation by mutual agreement, unlike England, where this practice has been a complete success, within the framework of a real negotiation. The traditional opening of the folds does not allow this, but we continue to make it a great mass! The other French characteristic is that club leaders seek to impose liberalism and deregulation but that they are the first, as soon as there is a problem, to ask for public aid. All without compensation …

« End of the game for football » (Aube editions) 129 pages, 15 euros

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