Wednesday, March 3, 2021

“If Vincent Labrune manages to get football out of its crisis, he will have to rethink a new model with us”

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Cédric Roussel chairs the study group on sports economics at the National Assembly. The deputy (La République en Marche) of the Alpes-Maritimes believes in the usefulness of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the Mediapro affair, which he requested in December 2020. Author of a column published by The world (“After the Mediapro affair, the marketing method of Ligue 1 must be rethought”), he pleads for a fundamental transformation of the French professional football model and the integration of sport into public policies.

Are politicians justified in intervening in a crisis which concerns private, liberal companies, such as professional football clubs?

Cedric Roussel : What I learned, thanks to the hearings of the parliamentary study group on the economics of sport, is that there is a need for actors to be more in contact with politicians and to have substantive discussions. Before, there were subjects that did not give rise to any discussion or were carefully avoided, in particular on the framework of wages for example, and which are discussed today. The collective issue means that everyone has their share of responsibility. Often, when there is a crisis, we turn to the state. We have everything to gain by seizing this opportunity to open a dialogue and a largely public debate.

You talk about responsibilities. Those of the Professional Football League (LFP) and clubs in the first place?

The Mediapro affair is a national affront [l’opérateur, qui avait remporté les droits du championnat de France de Ligue 1 il y a deux ans, a brutalement décidé de se retirer du marché français]. A new actor who arrives, who breaks our toy and who leaves. This will have budgetary consequences for the State, but also at the level of professional clubs. I am very worried about the future of some, those who do not have patrons or powerful shareholders in financial support. With many of my colleagues, we want to understand and above all to seek redress from all those who may have been at fault.

I have filed a request for a commission of inquiry, which is in progress. It is a real procedure which has resources, in particular a power of hearing. Mediapro, but also other players, such as the BeIN or RMC Sport channels, did not respond to the invitation of our study group, which is transpartisan. As part of a commission of inquiry, these hearings would be public, which would facilitate understanding of such a subject.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Football clubs leap into the unknown after Mediapro failed

French professional football is facing an emergency situation, but does it not risk falling back into its pitfalls once the crisis has passed?

If Vincent Labrune [le nouveau président de la LFP] manages to get football out of its current crisis, I believe he will have to rethink a new model with us. A model which will have to make professional clubs more secure. We need to think about the modeling of the latter, precisely when we are talking about these television rights, which are one of their essential components. This requires greater diversification, a basic financial principle. This means that there are many things we can work on: the economic model of the clubs, the exposure of football, its governance …

The president of the LFP must resolve this paradox: we have the best players in the world, the best training in the world and our championship is seeing its best hopes and is not competitive enough at European level. This does not date from Vincent Labrune, but it is something crucial. It is time to tackle this diagnosis.

Read also The reforms awaiting French football: salaries, transfers, training, competition format

Did you have the opportunity to meet Vincent Labrune?

I did not speak with him since it is Arnaud Rouger [directeur général de la LFP], who came before the parliamentary study group. What I can say about Vincent Labrune, without having seen him, is that he is appreciated by all the people I have met. It’s an important asset, because it allows him to talk to everyone. In this environment, if we look at the past year with the media discord at the time of the end of the championships, it is not an easy thing.

Beyond the standoff between the LFP and Canal + over a new call for tenders for the broadcasts of the matches, it seems that there are higher political issues: a fight between Vincent Bolloré, boss of the Vivendi group (owner of the encrypted channel) and Emmanuel Macron. Is the Elysée involved in this file?

It would be wrong to say that the President of the Republic does not have an eye and an interest in sport, in particular football news. He himself has already expressed and demonstrated it, especially during the round table which brought together all the stakeholders. [en novembre 2020], where he expressed himself very clearly on the Mediapro affair: this financial dispute had to first find answers from those first concerned. At that time, we were still in the process of conciliation between the LFP and Mediapro.

Now, that he intervenes directly in this crisis, I did not hear about it during the consultations and the work that I was able to carry out. That’s not why he isn’t interested in it. Again, the answers have to come from the actors. Politics must be there to help.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also French football caught in a clash between the Elysee and Canal +

Is sport a subject taken seriously enough by politicians?

As a member of Parliament, when you work on this subject, you are a bit considered like last-ditch policies. Sport is the smallest state budget, which limits its interest for some. I think we all have to gain by integrating sport, as well as culture, more into our public policies.

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