Canal Plus and BeIN make peace with LFP; Proximus to demand Pro League refund
Canal Plus and BeIN Sports, the pay-television operators in France, and the LFP, the soccer league, announced today they have reached agreement over the terms of their media rights contract following a three-week long spat.
Ligues 1 and 2 have been suspended since mid-March, and with no guarantee of when matches will resume, Canal Plus took the decision not to pay the next instalment of €110 million ($119.4 million) that was due on 5 April.
BeIN Sport followed suit, holding back its €42 million.
Both broadcasters have a final payment to make on 5 June.
The LFP established a special taskforce, controversially including Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaïfi, head of BeIN Media Group, to negotiate with the broadcasters, and progress has finally been made, albeit exact details have not been divulged.
In a joint statement today, the LFP and Canal Plus said: "The Professional Football League and the Canal + Group are pleased to have reached an agreement on the amount of the rules relating to the matches of the Ligue 1 and League 2 Championships already broadcast this season in accordance with the call for candidates for the acquisition 2016-2020 broadcasting rights.
"The Canal + Group and the Professional Football League would like to thank the four presidents of Ligue 1 clubs, Messrs Nasser Al-Khelaïfi (PSG), Jacques-Henri Eyraud (OM), Jean-Pierre Rivère (Nice) and Olivier Sadran (Toulouse), who entered into a constructive dialogue and thus succeeded in achieving a favorable outcome.
"Discussions continue regarding the potential resumption of the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 Championships with the ambition of finding a spectacle that meets expectations, while preserving the health of all."
BeIN and the LFP said: "This agreement takes into account the unprecedented situation facing clubs, the LFP and French football at the moment, while BeIN is also facing extremely difficult circumstances."The LFP had insisted earlier this month that Canal Plus still owes money despite the suspension of fixtures because 28 of the 38 matchdays, or 73.7 per cent, have been completed. The LFP said Canal has only paid for 67 per cent, meaning it owes €43 million. Based on that calculation, BeIN would owe €15 million.
BeIN and Canal Plus hold Ligue 1 rights until the end of this season in a deal worth €726.5 million per season.
BeIN, market newcomer Mediapro and Free will share Ligue 1 coverage from 2020-21, whenever that season starts, having snapped up the rights for a total of €1.153 billion per season, a 59-per-cent uplift on the value of the current deal.
While Canal Plus was due to relinquish coverage of Ligue 1, it has sub-licensed rights from BeIN for next season as part of an exclusive distribution deal between the two companies.
Pro League A similar issue has arisen in Belgium, with Proximus joining fellow telecoms operator Telenet in seeking a reimbursement of its broadcast rights payment to the domestic Pro League with a termination of the 2019-20 season set to be ratified next week.
Proximus has blasted the Pro League for opting to cancel the remainder of the season instead of “looking for constructive solutions” and without consulting with its rights-holders.
Yesterday, Telenet delivered an ultimatum to the league and requested a refund on its advanced rights payment or an equivalent share of next season’s games.
Earlier this month, the league’s board of directors made a recommendation to its 16 clubs to terminate the remainder of the campaign due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, at the time becoming the first European league to make this unprecedented move.
The 24 clubs from Belgium’s top two divisions are expected to ratify the move at a general assembly on Monday.
A cancellation of the season was always going to present an obvious issue with the league’s rights-holders as they will be unable to broadcast the remaining games, which includes the season-ending championship play-offs featuring the top six teams and determines the league winners.
There is also one round of games in the regular season outstanding.
Proximus and Telenet hold non-exclusive domestic broadcast rights along with fellow telecoms firm Voo.
The trio pay a combined €80 million ($86.4 million) per year for the rights and have already paid up for this season, their last as Pro League rights-holders.
In a statement issued to Sportcal earlier this month, Proximus insisted it was seeking discussions with the Pro League to come to an arrangement in regards to its rights contract and the remaining fixtures it will now not broadcast.
Proximus has now warned the Pro League that it must “provide a proportional refund of the television rights already paid if an acceptable solution proves impossible.”
The telecoms firm told Belgian newspaper De Standaard: "Proximus is surprised that the board of directors of the Pro League prefers an early termination of the national league, without looking for constructive solutions, as is happening in several European countries.
"In addition, the Pro League made it clear that it is not even considering properly reimbursing the rights holders should this very important part of the championship be dropped."
Proximus has instructed the league "to find a constructive solution together in the interest of the clubs, their players and fans, the rights holders and the TV viewers."
The company has recommended for the season to be completed after 30 June, although maintaining that “the health of players and fans comes first, of course.”
In its own correspondence with the league, Telenet presented the Belgian top-flight with two options: to spread the refund over a period; or to provide broadcasting rights to the value of this amount to the three operators [Telenet, Proximus and Voo] for an equal number of matches for the 2020-21 season.
The latter option, however, is complicated by the fact that Proximus, Telenet and Voo’s existing four-year deal with the league will expire at the end of this season after which Eleven Sports, the international subscription broadcaster, will hold the rights in an agreement worth €103 million per year which runs until the end of the 2024-25 campaign.
The incumbents had tabled an offer of their own worth €102 million annually in an effort to retain the rights.
The Pro League also came under fire from Uefa for cancelling its season as European soccer’s governing body is urging all domestic competitions to find ways to finish their league campaigns.
Following the Pro League’s decision to end its season, the Dutch Eredivisie and the Scottish Professional Football League have since followed suit with their respective competitions.