Is the new formula really good news for French football?

Do you remember Antoine Griezmann’s deadly return to Gerland with Real Sociedad in 2014? Since the fall of FC Metz against the Finnish “pinpins” in 1999? Since the defeat inflicted on Toulouse by Liverpool in 2007? So many moments that made the cottages cry and relaunched the famous song about the competitiveness of French football in the jukebox. Well, all this misfortune will soon be ancient history.

From 2024, thanks to the Champions League reform decided by UEFA on Tuesday, there will no longer be a preliminary round for the country’s representative team which is fifth in the UEFA index. And who is there now? France, of course. Three French clubs poured directly into the main draw of 36 teams, champagne at home, small toasts and Marseillaise. Better still, a fourth club could also integrate the final table if the performance of the tricolor teams involved in Europe in the span of a season is extraordinary.

“It’s an interesting format that needs to be pushed”

“French clubs are extremely interested in this new format,” acknowledged Slovenian Aleksander Ceferin, the big boss of UEFA, in an interview with the newspaper. The group, Wednesday. It must be said that, for those who will have the opportunity to participate in this renewed C1, their eyes are already shining: a minimum of eight games (instead of today’s six) – four of which at home – possible clashes against the big engines and the possibility of qualifying without too many difficulty (only 8 teams eliminated directly).

“This formula is good, exulted Jean-Michel Aulas, president of Lyon, in The Parisian. It’s an interesting format that needs to be pushed. OL, if participating, can meet any of the other 35 qualified teams. Anything is possible in this new format. Especially to raise money. Because, yes, if UEFA has developed this new formula, it is certainly not for love of the Luan Peres-Ghezzal duels, but above all to break the piggy bank, especially at the level of the famous TV rights.

The goose that lays the golden eggs, really?

Assigned at the beginning of the year, TV rights for the period 2024-2027 exploded and increased by 50% compared to 2018-2019, according to the Sportune website, to reach fifteen billion euros in three years. Added to this are bonuses for victories (2.8m) or draws in the group (930,000 euros), in addition to the 15.6m just for participating in the group stage and the 9.6m for qualifying for the eighth. more box office receipts, and French clubs will roll in gold.

“It is very positive given how TV rights weigh on the budget of the clubs participating in this competition”, assures Florent Bergmann, head of studies at the Center for Sports Law and Economics. There is a sort of addiction to the financial windfall that the Champions League brings. One can see what is happening in Lyon after two years without qualification in C1, outgoing partners, colossal losses… For the rest, perhaps it will lead, at the French level, to separate the teams and always favor the same ones to participate in the Champions League. »

Inequalities are widening

A disparity accentuated by the future transfer by the CVC fund, holder of 15% of the commercial subsidiary of LFP. PSG will receive 200 million euros, OL and OM 90, Nice, Rennes, Lille and Monaco 80 and the other clubs 33. And they will therefore have more resources to achieve results in the Champions League, which will be extremely profitable. “Will this allow French football to move up a bit in the European hierarchy? I’m not sure, replies Jean-Pascal Gayant, professor at the University of Le Mans, author of Sports economics (edited by Dunot). I’m not convinced the new format changes that. »

“The financial windfall provided by CVC can help but, like the aid put in place during the Covid-19, it was very beneficial, it made it possible to pay off debts, but it masks the structural problems that are those of the French club”. resumes Florent Bergmann.

That’s a position taken by Vincent Labrune, the president of the LFP, Gayant adds. He notes that we are underperforming in the European Cup, that we cannot have international rights for this reason, that we don’t have a big franchise known as PSG. . So we will focus resources on a small group of locomotives. These additional resources will allow them to do well in the European Cup, which offers notoriety, desirability… But this reasoning is based on accentuating the inequalities of means and strengths present. »

Have the TV rights of the national championships dropped?

Another problem that can occur with this new C1 format is a drop in the amount of TV rights in France. Already damaged by the Mediapro ruling, the French clubs don’t want a second blade. “We can trust UEFA to see C1 rights increase further,” says the CDES researcher. But it can compete with the national championships. The C1 TV rights that will have been created by that time may attract investors who, behind their backs, will not have sufficient financial windfall to be able to invest in local or national TV rights. »

And to cite the example of England: “The renegotiation of TV rights hasn’t had the same impact in terms of variation as the previous contract. Perhaps we are coming to the beginning of a slowdown in England. “The building remains very unstable and I really don’t believe in the sustainability of this 36-team format and the wonderful benefits for French football,” concludes Jean-Pascal Gayant dryly. Nasser Al-Khelaïfi will have to get back to work on a new formula.

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