The French championship resumes on Friday, October 16, after an international break. A Ligue 1 shaken by the decision of the Mediapro group, the new broadcaster which was to propel French football to the top, not to pay its second bill for television rights: 172 million euros, at the beginning of October. Then to claim a rebate, arguing the crisis related to the health context. If the Professional Football League (LFP) is inflexible in its negotiations with the Sino-Spanish group, French professional clubs, which were to receive payment of their share of audiovisual broadcasting revenues on Friday, are worried about the situation.
Philippe Caillot, Deputy Chairman of the Angers SCO (12e of Ligue 1 before the 7e day) outlines the concerns he shares with many colleagues.
Mediapro has refused to pay its bill and is causing great uncertainty in French football: how are you coping with this situation?
At first, we say to ourselves that we are talking about intelligent people [les dirigeants de Mediapro], which will come to an agreement, and that we should not worry too much. But it is at the level of the timing that that does not go: they waited for the end of the transfer window … In Angers, we took calculated risks, at the time, by saying to ourselves: “We are increasing the payroll by 20% Okay, but we have a great team and we’re going to find our way around somewhere. “Except that, the day after the end of the transfer window, we learn that the dice are loaded. For us, this is a big disappointment.
We can certainly hear that there were financial problems, but we do not reshuffle the cards during the game. We made our transfer window anticipating the financial windfall to come [Mediapro doit verser 814 millions d’euros par an au football français]. This is how it goes: the sports sector makes its suggestions, on their shortcomings and their targets, and then we decide according to our means. There, we were seduced by the potential team, the president said “ok let’s go”, and we went. It is a calculated risk, where we hope to return to our funds.
What percentage of television rights is in your budget?
In Angers, TV rights represent more than 80% of the budget, and I think it’s the same in all clubs. The rest are the partners who have remained loyal to us, and the ticketing, which is at zero at the moment. [en raison de la pandémie de Covid-19]. So the economic problem is simple.
The LFP took out a loan to be able to return money to the clubs, in the absence of payment from Mediapro. Do you have any news from him? When is the next installment expected?
The League payout should take place this weekend, [vendredi] 16. We are told, “We will pay you 30% of what we owe you, and we hope to pay you the rest at the end of the month. “Except that we have salaries to pay from October 20, and it’s not just the players: we must not forget the whole club behind. Both in administration and with professional players, we have a significant payroll. And the only answer we get is: “Take that, we’ll see the rest”.
In Angers, we have the reputation of being a well-managed club, we are not in debt, and we are experiencing difficulties. So I imagine for the clubs which are in more trouble, which for example made a discount on their potential gains of the rights TV… their situation must be catastrophic. And almost all clubs are concerned. When you see the transfer window this summer in France, with clubs that have invested 170 million euros, we say to ourselves that it will be hard for them, as solid as the club’s shareholder is, because there is no not a lot of patronage in football.
The real question is: are we really going to get what we have been promised? We have doubts. And it is not the League’s fault, since it itself does not know anything.
How do you see the future in the short term, in these few weeks? Has the specter of bankruptcy been ruled out?
Today, what is important is to find solutions, not the culprits. We are worried. Our duty is to consider everything, including the fact that tomorrow, we are no longer paid. But in Angers, we cannot imagine a potential bankruptcy.
At no time do I imagine that there could not be an agreement, because the economy of football has such an impact… Solutions will be found, even if economically, we know that we are going to leave feathers there. But it can’t fall apart like that overnight.