The new Champions League, good news for French football?

The new Champions League, good news for French football?

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

As of 2024, thanks to the reform of the Champions League decided on Tuesday by UEFA, there will no longer be a preliminary round for the representative of the country that is fifth in the UEFA index. And who is there now? France, of course. Three French clubs poured straight into the 36-team main draw, champagne at home, small toasts and Marseillaise. Better yet, a fourth club could also make up the final table if the performance of the tricolor teams that participate in Europe throughout a season is extraordinary.

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

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

“This formula is good, rejoiced Jean-Michel Aulas, president of Lyon, in the parisian. It’s an interesting format that needs to be pushed. OL, if you participate, you can face any of the other 35 qualified teams. Everything is possible in this new format. Especially to raise money. Because, yes, if UEFA has put this new formula surely it is not for love of the Luan Peres-Ghezzal duels, but above all to break the piggy bank, especially at the level of the famous television rights.

The goose that lays the golden eggs, really?

Granted at the beginning of the year, television rights for the 2024-2027 period have skyrocketed and increased by 50% compared to 2018-2019, according to the Sportune site, to reach fifteen billion euros in three years. To this we must add the bonuses for correct answers (2.8 million) or draws in the pool (€930,000), in addition to the 15.6 million just for having participated in the group stage and the 9.6 million for qualifying in eighths, plus the box office. and the French clubs will roll in gold.

“It is very positive to see how television rights weigh in the budget of the clubs that participate in this competition,” says Florent Bergmann, head of studies at the Center for Sports Law and Economics. There is a kind of dependency on the financial windfall that the Champions League brings. We can see a little of what is happening in Lyon after two years without qualifying for C1, shareholder exit, colossal losses… For the rest, perhaps it will lead, at the French level, to separate the clubs and always favor the themselves. to participation in the Champions League. »

Inequalities are widening

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

“The financial situation provided by CVC can help but, it is like the aid deployed during Covid-19, it has been very beneficial, it has allowed debts to be paid off, but it masks the structural problems that are those of the French clubs”, continues Florent Bergmann. .

This is a position assumed by Vincent Labrune, president of the LFP, adds Gayant. He notes that we are performing poorly in the European Cup, that we cannot have international rights because of that, that we do not have a big franchise known as PSG. So we will concentrate the resources on a small group of locomotives. These additional resources will allow them to have a good performance in the European Cup, which offers notoriety, desirability… But this reasoning is based on the accentuation of the inequalities of means and present forces. »

The television rights of the national championships down?

Another problem that may occur with this new C1 format is a decrease in the number of television rights in France. Already damaged by the sentence of Mediapro, the clubs of France do not want a second leaf. “We can rely on UEFA to see the rights of C1 increase even more,” says the CDES investigator. But it can compete with the national leagues. The TV C1 rights that will have been created at that time can attract investors who, behind them, will not have enough economic manna to be able to invest in local or national TV rights. »

And to cite the example of England: “The renegotiation of the TV rights did not have the same impact in terms of variation as the previous contract. Perhaps we are reaching the beginning of a slowdown in England. “The building is still 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 go back to work on a new formula.

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