President Emmanuel Macron’s Easter Monday announcement that lockdown would remain in place until 11 May confirmed the worst for football clubs in France. While the Ligue de Football Professionnel, which runs the league, confirmed on the same day that it is looking to resume the season on 17 June, the brutal economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the sport are becoming clear.
There have been no matches in Ligue 1 since 16 March and that has caused the broadcasters beIN Sports and Canal+ to withhold payment of the latest instalment of their TV rights deal believed to have been worth around €130m. There are fears that if the season cannot be completed it may cost French clubs up to €300m in total.
The LFP is even looking into whether it can attract investment from a third-party to help support some of the clubs who are going to struggle to survive. In England the Premier League is strong and so is the Football Association but in France all of the money goes to the clubs so the LFP or French football federation does not have the money to bail them out.
These are extraordinary times and everyone knows they must work together to make sure no club goes out of business. Last week the players’ union, the UNFP, agreed a deal with the LFP and the clubs’ union that will see the majority defer their wages until the season is over.
Those who earn less than €10,000 a month will receive their whole salary, while those who are earning between €10,000 and €20,000 only 80%, 70% for €20,000 to €50,000, 60% for €50,000 to €100,000 and 50% for the very top earners above €100,000 a month.
If the players agree each player must sign a new contract with their club that says they agree with this deferment. So there are a lot of contracts to be signed in the next few days.
In France it is expected the players will follow recommendations from Fifa about contracts (and loans) that are ending in June, which will mean they are extended until the season is completed. They also wantto extend the transfer window and that is likely to happen.
The players want to help the clubs in any way they can. You have all the people working as secretaries, in marketing, groundsmen and on matchdays who are really suffering at the moment and that is who they will be thinking about. The players know they will get their money at the end of the season so it is just about trying to help get through this period. It could even be a good thing for some of those who find it hard to save any of their money each month!
We have a process in France called chômage partiel in which the clubs pay 70% of the gross salary to the players and the government pays back up to €4,850 a month to the clubs. But this new agreement between the UNFP, the LFP and the clubs’ union is totally separate – it’s an accord between the players and clubs to ensure we have financial security before they spend huge sums of money on salaries and image rights.
The average salary in Ligue 1 is €94,000 before tax so the majority will be deferring almost half of their wages until this is all over. For someone such as Neymar, who is reportedly earning €3.1m a month, that is a massive contribution but I think he totally understands the situation and wants to help. I think every player has solidarity towards the clubs and hopefully their sacrifices can help us through this difficult time.
Badou Sambague is a former international player for Mali who is now a qualified lawyer running a law firm called BS LAW and player agency called BS GROUP.