This is the first court decision in favor of Canal + in the thorny issue of television rights for the French football championship. The Nanterre commercial court on Friday 23 July authorized Canal + to suspend the sublicence contract with BeIN Sports and to interrupt its payments for the broadcasting of two Ligue 1 matches, Agence France-Presse has learned (AFP ) from sources close to the broadcasters.
Two weeks before the resumption of the championship, the court said, however, that these payments were to resume if the Qatari channel sued the Professional Football League (LFP), which Canal + had requested in vain, said one of the sources.
BeIN Sports acquired in 2018, for 332 million euros from the LFP, the broadcasting rights for these two matches per day, lot 3, which it sublicensed for the same amount to Canal +, which is supposed to disseminate them. But since mid-June and the attribution of 80% of Ligue 1 matches to Amazon for 250 million euros, Canal +, which refuses to pay 332 million euros for only two matches per day, wants to withdraw from the broadcast of the French championship.
After sending a letter to BeIN Sports on July 13 explaining that it wanted to suspend its sub-license contract, Canal + at the same time refused to pay the first draft of the season of nearly 500,000 euros for the contract with BeIN. A sprain that this last channel did not let pass by assigning two days later Canal + in summary before the commercial court of Nanterre.
But justice therefore considered that BeIN should initiate proceedings against the LFP, as requested by Canal +. “What the court is saying is that Canal may not pay as long as BeIN has not taken legal action against the LFP, but BeIN has no obligation at all to broadcast the matches of lot 3”, analyzes a source close to one of the two broadcasters who had access to the decision.
An uncomfortable position for BeIN
The Qatari channel has already indicated in a statement that it “Studied” the legal actions to be taken while regretting that French football must “Still face such uncertainty a few weeks before the season starts again”. “Clearly, they will obviously follow the recommendations of the court and continue the LFP”, provides a source close to one of the two diffusers. Asked by AFP, Canal + did not follow up.
The defense of Canal + had raised Tuesday, during the hearing before the commercial court, this clause binding the two broadcasters stipulating that BeIN sports had to initiate legal proceedings if Canal requested it.
Following the failure of Mediapro, the encrypted channel had repeatedly asked BeIN to sue the LFP in order to force it to put lot 3 back into play during the last call for tenders, in mid-June, which the Qatari channel never did. Canal + has, therefore, taken legal action alone twice, but was rejected each time by the commercial court and the Competition Authority.
“Canal’s strategy is complicated, because it now places its ex-ally in an uncomfortable position with the LFP”, summarizes a source close to sports authorities. It is indeed technically BeIN sports which must pay the money of lot 3 to the LFP. A first payment of 55 million euros is also expected for August 5, the day before the start of the season.
The LFP did not comment on this new legal twist, but, according to a source close to the instance, “She does not refrain, suddenly, from assigning BeIN” to have the assurance of being paid.
The legal brawl seems far from over. “Nothing changes in substance, the economic distortion created by the attribution of matches to Amazon cannot continue”, still estimates a source close to a broadcaster.