BeIN Sports joins Canal Plus in withholding next Ligue 1 rights payment
By Jonathan Rest
BeIN Sports, the pay-television broadcaster in France, has written to the LFP, the French professional soccer league, to announce that, like fellow Ligue 1 rights-holder Canal Plus, it will not be making the next payment while the league remains suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sportcal has learned that BeIN Sports sent its letter to the LFP on Wednesday informing that the scheduled payment of €42 million ($46 million) due on 5 April will not be met because of the "total lack of real visibility."
BeIN and Canal Plus hold Ligue 1 rights until the end of this season in a deal worth €726.5 million per season. A final payment from the pair is due on 5 June.
Canal Plus had already told the LFP it will not be making its €110 million payment due later this week.
Ligues 1 and 2 have been suspended since 16 March, and with no immediate plan for their return and France in lockdown, the rights-holders believe they had no option but to act.
In the letter to LFP chief executive Didier Quillot, seen by Sportcal, BeIN Sports France chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly wrote: "Our group, and in particular its broadcast channels for major sporting events, have not been spared the serious consequences of the health crisis, which all economic operators are besides facing.
"In such a context and after careful consideration, mainly taking into consideration the total lack of real visibility on the actual resumption of matches in the current season, which has just been aggravated by the decision to maintain confinement for an additional period for two weeks, our group has decided to suspend the next payments provided for by our agreement, until Ligues 1 and 2 can resume according to a schedule allowing their normal distribution to our subscribers.
"We remain, of course, at your disposal to discuss this context together and would like to know the protective measures put in place by the league for the continuation of the current championship and the resumption of the next season."The LFP had reacted angrily to Canal Plus actions, saying in a statement late last week: "We do not understand this position of Canal Plus... We asked for explanations and even a meeting to understand. This is all the more incomprehensible as the [French Football] Federation, Uefa, Fifa, the clubs and the players are lined up to show great solidarity, to share efforts. It is surprising that Canal Plus, the historic broadcaster of the French Championship, does not participate."
The LFP has since tasked four Ligue 1 club presidents - Nasser al-Khelaïfi (Paris Saint Germain), Jacques-Henri Eyraud (Marseille), Olivier Sadran (Toulouse) and Jean-Pierre Rivère (Nice) - to meet with Canal Plus boss Maxime Saada to convince the broadcaster to change its mind.
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 current value.
While Canal Plus was due to relinquish coverage of Ligue 1, it has sub-licensed rights from BeIN from next season as part of an exclusive distribution deal between the companies.