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Open letter to the Prime Minister and Minister of Sports

Published on 25 May 2020 at 5:20 PM
Lettre ouverte à Monsieur le Premier ministre et à Madame la ministre des Sports
Read the open letter from President Jean-Michel Aulas, sent today to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Sports.

Open letter to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Sports so that June 2 becomes synonymous with hope for all of French football

 

What happened between April 21 and May 1 regarding the cessation of the French  top flight season and the method chosen for the final league table?

 

  • April 21: UEFA presents the 3 main guidelines to the secretaries and directors general of the 55 Federations and to the members of the EPFL Association (European Leagues) with an order of preference to enhance "sporting merit":
  • Finish the seasons in the normal manner,
  • Or finish them in a different format,
  • Or, as a last resort, stop them altogether.

     

  • The associations have until May 25, the date of the UEFA Executive Committee meeting, to create a plan. Mrs. Florence Hardouin, a member of the UEFA COMEX and DG of the FFF, and Mr. Didier Quillot, member of the EPFL and DG of the LFP, had access to this important information.

     

  • April 24: UEFA sends a letter to the various Federations and Leagues to reaffirm the order of priorities for the member associations and European leagues: finish the championship including a conclusion date which falls after August 3.

     

  • April 27: Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, speaks by telephone with Didier Deschamps, Coach of the National Team, to discuss the end of the league seasons. Didier Deschamps seems to favor prioritising the safety of the players and staff at this point within the crisis' timeline.

     

  • April 28: Mr Edouard Philippe, Prime Minister, to the National Assembly : "The 2019-2020 professional sports seasons, notably that of football, cannot be resumed."

     

  • April 28 : Mr Jean-Pierre Rivère, President of OGC Nice, in an interview with L’Equipe: "I believe that the decision that was made is one taken with wisdom and it is a good thing."

    The decision, taken at this point, favored his club.

     

  • April 28, 19h46, Mr Noel Le Graët, President of the FFF, in Le Télégramme : "Ligue 1 and Ligue 2's seasons are finished. It will be the final matchday that had been completed (J27) which will count towards deciding the European places."

     

  • April 29, Mr Jean-Michel Aulas, President of Olympique Lyonnais : Proposal of a suitable solution and in accordance with the recommendations of UEFA dated April 21, to enhance the "sporting merit" and avoid a financial disaster: implementation of play-offs in August to end the championship under a different format and to improve the activity of the whole sporting ecosystem.

    This solution was then proposed to be potentially adapted during discussions among all stakeholders.

     

  • April 30, concomitantly at the LFP office: The League receives an email from Canal + to unilaterally terminate its contract on the sole basis of the statements made by the Prime Minister.

    Roughly €300 million is gone as a result.

    Surprisingly, this major information does not result in remark from the Director General or the President of the LFP.

     

  • April 30, at the opening of the LFP's meeting as regards their turover, Mr Didier Quillot, Director General of the LFP: the LFP has just received a pre-agreement from PGE granted by the Société Générale for 25% of the League's turnover, or 224.5 million euros

     

  • April 30, LFP press release: "The LFP Board of Directors decides to end the 2019/2020 season" and "The final league table in Ligue 1 Conforama is therefore awarded according to the classification criterion established by a performance index taking into account the average number of points earned based on all matches played."

    Paradoxically, while the solution already used by the FFF did not provide for naming a champion, the LFP awarded the titles of Champion of France in both Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 which shows, without taking anything away from the merits of the two champions, that the decisions taken were then of a variable nature.

     

  • May 1, France Info, Didier Quillot, Director General of the LFP: "It is a decision that is binding for us. We took note of the Government’s decision and 48 hours later we stopped our league seasons. "

 

  • According to the LFP, the L1 was stopped by a decision made by the Government.

     

  • Contrary to UEFA's proposals, the LFP did not wish to wait to make a decision when it then had almost 1 month to study the evolution of the pandemic and sanitary conditions as well as to define a health protocol allowing it to resume competition, as our European neighbors have been able to do.

     

  • Contrary to the hypotheses favored by UEFA, the LFP did not wish to discuss a different format as an option for the month of August.

     

  • Contrary to the initial declaration made by Mr Noel Le Graët, President of the FFF, the league table was not finalized according to the last full matchday contested (J27) but according to a points-per-match formula which takes into account a matchday which had not been fully played (J28).


  • The hasty decision, made contrary to UEFA's recommendations  regarding resuming seasons, in fact casts doubt on the orientation of the votes of the LFP's executive committee, as particular interests may have prevailed over the general interest of French football.

     

  • The very positive development of sanitary measures has enabled the public authorities to authorize the gradual resumption of activities in many areas since May 11.

 

What has happened since May 1 and what are the main revelations following these decisions?

 

  • May 5, Madame Roxana Maracineanu, Minister of Sports, to L’Equipe: "This is the proposal I had in my hands: a season that had to end by August 3, because of the dates imposed by UEFA"

     

  • May 7, Mr Jean-Michel Aulas, President of OL, to L'Equipe: "Few clubs were aware of what was going to happen, of the economic disaster that would follow ... French football is not sure of recovering from this premature termination. "

    An economic disaster of the order of €700-900 million is being forecast.

     

  • May 10, Mr Bernard Caïazzo, President of ASSE (favored by the decision) to end the Ligue 1 season), in a video press conference: "The decision to stop the season is the responsibility of the Prime Minister"

     

  • May 10, Mr Nicolas Holveck, President of Stade Rennais FC (favored by the decision to end Ligue 1), in a video press conference: "We were not going to go against a decision of the President of the Republic. "

     

  • May 10, Mr Loïc Fery, President of FC Lorient (who would be promoted as a result of the end of Ligue 2) in a video press conference: "this decision was taken by the Government"

     

  • May 13, Mr Dominique Séverac, journalist with Le Parisien on La Chaîne L’Equipe :"This is a league table which excludes Lyon from the qualifying places for the Europa League. This is why the club presidents decided to vote for this scenario, a scenario that they had prepared beforehand. They had decided among themselves by WhatsApp to dismiss Jean-Michel Aulas. "

     

  • May 14, Mr Aleksander Ceferin, President of UEFA, in a letter to Jean-Michel Aulas: confirms that:

 

  • French football leaders have known the UEFA guidelines since April
  • The format of the play-offs was a solution to be studued if the entire season could not be played out
  • August 3 was just a recommendation

 

  • May 14, Mr Vincent Duluc, Journalist with  l'Équipe on their television channel: "A President of Ligue 1 clearly told me that he had spent a whole Saturday night calling the offices of Macron and Edouard Philippe to recommend the end of the league season"

     

  • May 14 on After Foot on RMC: "It turns out that club presidents called Macron's office to urge the president to make the following decision: stop. Presumably, the presidents in question are Jacques-Henri Eyraud and Jean-Pierre Rivère. Marseille and Nice had every interest in stopping things."

     

  • May 16 : The Bundesliga officially restarts

     

  • May 18: UEFA postpones its Executive Committee meeting, previously scheduled for May 27, to June 17.

     

  • May 19: AFP dispatch: L1 could have concluded after August 3 according to a letter from UEFA

     

  • May 19, Mr Eric Di Meco, RMC consultant: “I don't understand why they stopped so quickly. Aleksander Ceferin’s letter hits home: there was no deadline to finish the championship. For UEFA, sporting merit is more important than the rest. We could have waited. Club presidents intervened with the President of the Republic to stop the season. If this is true, shame on them. "

     

  • May 20, Mr. Sacha Houlié, MP LREM on RMC: "If people who exercise their powers of delegation via public service cannot offer a clear position, or if they give you a clear position which says "we stop", there are strong chances that the public authorities will tell you to stop, since the authorities who are on the ground are telling us to stop. We decided on this position based on what we were told. What do you want to do to change that?"

     

  • May 21, Mediapart releases confidential documents that highlight what the President of Olympique Lyonnais has been saying for almost three weeks: the catastrophic general state of the finances of French football, with a high level of fear of collapse following the end of the league season.

     

  • May 22, l'Équupe: BeIn Sport has not paid all of the TV rights for the Ligue 1 season

     

  • May 23: The Spanish Government announces the resumption of La Liga the week of June 8. BeIn Sport welcomes this return and plans to resume broadcasting for French subscribers.

 

 

  • According to the Government, Ligue 1 was stopped on the basis of information given to them by certain leaders within French football.

     

  • The information given by French football to the government does not comply with UEFA's recommendations: there was no deadline for finishing the league season, contrary to what was said and repeated by the leaders and the highest authorities.


  • Certain club presidents who directly favored by a judgment regarding the end of the league season rejected the responsibility for the judgment made by the Government (at times the Prime Minister, at times the President of the Republic)

     

  • Some club presidents who favored by an end to the season have been directly accused by journalists of having pressured the Government to stop the season, then of having plotted a way to give a favored placement to their own interests.

     

  • The State, which could be held responsible for having made this decision, which, as a result, could engage its own responsibility in the face of the colossal collectieve deficit of the clubs (€700-900 million), has set up an EMP to fill the treasuries of L1 clubs following the termination and the non-payments by Canal + and Bein Sport.


  • Out of UEFA's 55 member countries, more than 20 have already decided to resume their seasons and only 7 have decided to stop permanently. All the others are studying the conditions for a return.

     

  • Among the 7 largest European leagues, France is the only one to have chosen to stop. The Bundesliga resumed matches on May 16, Spain will resume on June 8, Italy, Russia and Portugal have resumed collective training, England are working on a return to action after June 19. How can France not be, as a result downgraded very quickly and see its professional football devalued?

     

  • The financial situation of French clubs is terrible. A definitive end to the season would lead all French football to an unprecedented economic and social crisis.

     

  • In early May, a law was proposed by the Minister of Sports. The purpose of this law is to ensure that the premature decision to stop the championships by the LFP was definitively ratified without possible appeal. First presented to the National Assembly, in order to protect the associations and leagues via a system of edicts, it was the subject of very lively debate. As a result, it was once again made into an amendement to the "bill relating to various provisions linked to the health crisis, and other urgent measures." This legislative initiative would paradoxically reinforce a manifest error by the LFP. The decisions taken by French football are to date being contested by several hundred amateur clubs and by different professional clubs. Why would the Minister of Sports want to reinforce an unfair decision?

 

 

Mr. Prime Minister, Minister of Sports, a date of June 2 will help to organize the neessary end of confinement, to standardize the decisions necessary realting to worship, horse racing or the next municipal elections. Many developments and hopes are expected on this date for France to gradually regain a good state of being.



Can we also conceive as well that June 2 is a great opportunity to rectify the error concerning French football and allow, with the health protocols being used everywhere, to set a starting point for a gradual resumption of training (in June) and, why not, a resumption of the 2019/2020 league seasons in the months of July or August as UEFA specifically suggested on April 21 and as has since been confirmed by Aleksander Ceferin on May 14?

 

Jean-Michel Aulas

President, Olympique Lyonnais

 

Lyon, May 25, 2020