French public-service broadcaster France Télévisions and Eurosport France, a unit of the pan-European sports broadcaster, are withholding payment for rights to the Coupe de France as they seek a reduction in the value of their deal.
L’Équipe reports that the broadcasters were due to pay competition organiser the French Football Federation a final instalment of around €4.5 million ($5.3 million) in May.
FFF president Noël Le Graët is quoted by the newspaper as saying that the governing body and the two broadcasters are “in discussion, not in conflict” and that the discussions would be “concluded soon” but that France Télévisions and Eurosport “want to pay a bit less".
It is understood that the two broadcasters have argued that the cup competition has been devalued by changes to the format, specifically dividing it into professional and amateur paths.
France Télévisions and Eurosport France are paying a reported €22 million per annum in a four-year rights deal for the Coupe de France running to the end of the 2021-22 season.
In January this year, they asked for a 30 per cent discount on the rights, but this was rejected by the FFF.
The Coupe de la Ligue, France's secondary cup competition, was discontinued after the 2019-20 season in part due to a lack of interest from broadcasters.
Meanwhile, Jean-Michel Aulas, president of French Ligue 1 soccer team Olympique Lyonnais, is pressing for a further reduction in the number of teams in the top flight.
It has already been agreed that the size of Ligue 1 will be cut from 20 to 18 teams, but not until the 2023-24 season, and the often-outspoken Aulas believes this does not go far enough, and wants a play-off to decide one team that would be relegated.
Aulas spoke this week with delegates of France's National Assembly about the future of soccer and TV rights.
He said: “We must reduce the uncertainties. The fewer clubs that are automatically relegated, the more investors will be protected. This is why I am in favour of a reduction to 18, or even to 16, teams in professional leagues. There must be a minimum of automatic relegations, that is to say, one, and that it is at the end of a play-off or other very specific criteria.”
His comments came against the backdrop of the impact of Covid-19 on French soccer, the collapse of the four-year €3.3 billion broadcasting rights between the LFP, the French professional soccer league, and Spanish media company Mediapro, and subsequent disquiet about the rights being re-issued to internet giant Amazon.