Maxime Saada, the chairman and chief executive of French pay-television broadcaster Canal Plus has called for domestic soccer’s top-tier Ligue 1 to be reduced to 18 clubs.
The LFP, the French professional soccer league, is due to hold a general assembly on Thursday at which it will discuss the possibility of a reduction from 20 teams.
It is understood that the idea is favoured by some club presidents in Ligue 1 and Saada has now thrown his backing behind the idea.
Canal Plus has been a long-time domestic broadcaster of the French top flight and its chief believes fewer teams in the league will make it more competitive and attractive.
Saada told L’Equipe: "I have always said that I defended this idea of a model with 18 clubs and that has not changed.
“We should even be more ambitious, the Top 14 (the French rugby union competition) is the perfect example, but this move to 18 would be already an important step."
Saada has requested to speak with the presidents of the 20 Ligue 1 clubs at this week’s assembly to provide his views on the matter.
Ligue 1 has operated with 20 teams since the 1965-66 season.
In Italy, the FIGC, the national federation, recently unveiled plans to reduce Serie A from 20 to 18 teams by the 2023-24 season, with its president Gabriele Gravina revealing the proposal as part of his plans to reform domestic soccer.
In Spain, however, LaLiga president Javier Tebas last week emphatically ruled out the possibility of the league being reduced from 20 teams.
Notably, Saada’s views come at a time when the LFP is seeking a major broadcaster for next season and preparing a new tender after the collapse of its lucrative rights deal with Mediapro last year.
Mediapro had rights to show eight Ligue 1 games per week but after it ended its deal with the league, Canal Plus stepped in and reached a short-term agreement with the LFP to take on those games, in addition to the matches it was already contracted to show, until the end of the 2020-21 season.
Canal Plus reportedly has no desire to extend that agreement as it is only interested in the top two fixtures each week.
The broadcaster has been sub-licensing the two top matches from pay-TV counterpart BeIN Sports but believes the LFP should re-tender all packages after the Mediapro deal came to an end.
The league will soon re-tender the eight-game package for 2021-22 to 2023-24, albeit it is unlikely to get anywhere near €3.3 billion ($4 billion) Mediapro agreed to pay over four years in order to enter the French market and see off competitors BeIN and Canal Plus.
Under the sub-licensing deal with BeIN last season, Canal Plus showed the top two Ligue 1 matches each week – at 9pm Saturday and 5pm Sunday – in a deal worth €330 million per season, which remains in place going forward.