There are 1361 professional players in France, a constant figure


It is a stability which may surprise at first glance. As if the crisis had not existed, the number of players under contract in mid-November in Ligue 1, Ligue 2 and National (1361) has not changed since the 2019-2020 season (1358). Likewise, the number of unemployed players, that is to say under contract last season and without a club today, « About a hundred » according to Philippe Lafon, the general manager of the UFFP, the players’ union, has also remained « At the level of the last normal seasons ». While around 20% of the workforce comes to the end of their contract each season, we could have expected a negative balance between departures (many) and arrivals (rare), but that is not what happened. Why, when the clubs suffered heavy losses with the Covid?

« I have no definitive explanation, recognizes a good expert in the management of professional clubs, but it is undoubtedly necessary to distinguish the clubs in difficulty which were able to compress their workforce from others like the PSG which rather fleshed it out. We should also see the number of first professional contracts to check whether the proportion of young and less expensive players has not increased. And it must be remembered that a lot of clubs did not sell this summer as they wanted and that the same or others are still betting on player trading. « 

According to UNFP figures, there are currently in Ligue 1 a total of 722 players under contract, an average of 36.1 players per club, that is to say much more than the average that the League aims at. term with its “package” of reforms currently under discussion.

Too many players according to the DTN

Limiting the size of changing rooms is a major trend. At European level, Aleksander Ceferin, the president of UEFA, wants to prevent top clubs from drying up the market for the best players. In France, Vincent Labrune, the president of the LFP, also advocates a slimming diet. This shared desire to reduce the workforce has several objectives: therefore to restore a little competitiveness between “big” and “small” clubs, to lower the wage bill and to allow young people to have better chances of expressing themselves.

Reducing the number of players per club is also the horizon advocated by the national technical direction (DTN) through a study which shows that 90% of the playing time of a Ligue 1 team is concentrated on average on the same 16 players. and more than 0.1% from the 26th player. Which comes down to the observation that in a workforce of 36 players, a dozen pros never play with the pennant team – a figure which has however been able to evolve with the 5 replacements authorized since the start of the 2020-2021 season.

The DTN finally proposed to limit the number of professionals per club to 25, with the obligation to have 5 players from the training center. This last precision is not insignificant while the clubs and the League want – another priority reform of Vincent Labrune – to extend the first professional contract from three to five years to delay the flight of talents trained in France, a prospect which in fact limits the contractual freedom of players and that their union does not intend to accept without compensation.

Objective 24 + young people

As explained in our columns, the diagram that could lead to this would be to link this extension of the duration of the first contract to a limitation of the workforce to 24 players, but without taking into account the first pro contracts. Thus, a young person would commit for a longer period but would have more opportunities to play in a tight workforce. In this diagram, the number of pro players would drop significantly

In reaction to the DTN study, Philippe Piat, vice-president of the UNFP, explained: “Many think that we should act like normal unions and be happy to see a large number of employees. We are not in that perspective. We do not want to have football players who do not play, or not good enough to play, and therefore there is no point in making them sign a professional contract. As it is useless to train players if you do not make them play, or to train too many to increase the wage bill and hope for a hypothetical sale 2 years later. « 

The number of professional players, still stable this season by « contractual inertia » and the desire of clubs to develop their workforce in the long term, could decrease over the next few seasons if the reforms prosper and the clubs find their way financially.

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