Ligue 1 season will not resume – French prime minister Edouard Philippe

By PA Sport Staff
PA Media: Sport

Ligue 1 has become the second major European league to be cancelled due to coronavirus after French prime minister Edouard Philippe announced no sporting events, even those behind closed doors, could take place before September.

Officials had been hoping teams could resume training within a fortnight after plans emerged earlier this month for the league to resume on June 17 and conclude on July 25.

But the French top flight and Ligue 2 will now follow the Dutch Eredivisie in ending their seasons due to the pandemic.

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Philippe said: “The 2019-2020 season of professional sports, including football, will not be able to resume.

“It will be possible, on sunny days, to practice an individual sporting activity outdoors, obviously respecting the rules of social distancing.

“It will not be possible, neither to practice sport in covered places, nor team or contact sports.”

The decision could provide an obstacle for UEFA, who had been looking into completing the Champions League and Europa League campaigns in August.

Paris St Germain and Lyon are still in the Champions League, with the former through to the quarter-finals and the latter holding a 1-0 first-leg lead against Juventus in the round of 16.

UEFA did not have any immediate comment on how the situation in France would impact upon its competitions.

European football’s governing body has asked leagues to submit restart plans or its plans to end seasons by May 25, two days before the next scheduled meeting of its executive committee.

At that point, UEFA may be in a better position to make a decision on how, or if, it can proceed with the Champions League and Europa League.

Domestically, most teams in Ligue 1 have 10 games left to play this season, while PSG and Strasbourg have 11.

According to reports, the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) will meet next month to make final decisions over how to finalise the standings.

PSG lead the standings by 12 points from Marseille, with one point separating Rennes in third, which comes with a Champions League qualifying berth, from Lille in fourth place and a Europa League spot.

Amiens and Toulouse are in the bottom two, while Nimes sit 18th, a position which would ordinarily put them in a relegation play-off against a club from Ligue 2.

Paris Saint-Germain were 11 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic (Martin Rickett/PA)
Paris Saint-Germain were 11 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic (Martin Rickett/PA)

The picture at the top of Ligue 2 is much tighter, with only four points separating Lorient in first place from Clermont in fifth, with Lens, Ajaccio and Troyes also in the mix for either automatic promotion or a play-off place.

The news will have financial ramifications for the French game too, with beIN SPORTS and Canal Plus having withheld the final instalment of television money due for domestic rights while they awaited clarity over how the season could be completed.

The Dutch Football Association made the decision last week not to enforce promotion and relegation to their leagues or declare champions and opted to award European qualification based on the Eredivisie table as it stood.

In Spain, LaLiga president Javier Tebas does not believe his country should follow the lead of France and Holland.

He said in a statement: “I do not understand why there would more danger in playing football behind closed doors, with all precautionary measures, than working on an assembly line, being on a fishing boat on the high seas.

“If important economic sectors cannot restart, in a safe and controlled manner, they could end up disappearing. That could happen to professional football.

“In other countries teams are already training, that’s the example to follow.

“In Spain, football is an important economic driver that we need to reactivate like many others. We continue to focus on this reactivation, in a responsible manner and adhering to health recommendations, as soon as possible.”

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