The LFP endorsed Wednesday the disappearance of the competition from next season. An unloved cup, which has never managed to find its place.
The "Wooden cup" is not anymore. And the formula of Jean-Michel Aulas, the day after the elimination of his Olympique Lyonnais in the quarterfinals last year, seems a perfect epitaph to the Coupe de la Ligue. "It's still a wooden cup! It annoys all clubs and the public does not adhere to it at all. " Given the impossibility of finding a broadcaster next year, the Professional Football League (LFP) sounded the death knell, Wednesday, September 18, of its competition, which will disappear next season.
"Little finale, little cup, little joy. " Thus began the report of the first final of this competition in our columns, in 1995. Twenty-five years later and while the lid closes on this ill-born Cup, imagined in 1994 by Noël Le Graët, then president of the LFP (he heads today the French Football Federation), the description has not aged a bit.
Unable to win in the hearts of the French or the calendar and criticized by the clubs, the Coupe de la Ligue has never found its place. And even the players avoid igniting. "We're not going to jump to the ceiling, it's not the World Cup," shower the Strasbourg Mickaël Pagis in 2005 after raising the trophy.
A cup without "popular fervor"
From birth, the Coupe de la Ligue is only a counterpart. Its creation coincides with the passage of the championship from twenty to eighteen clubs. A promise that will hold until 2002, where Ligue 1 found twenty teams. And just like the panenka failed of Nantes goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau in 2004, offering the title to Sochaux, the Coupe de la Ligue keeps, year after year, an aroma of unfinished.
Neglected, to the point that the League inscribes in its regulation – in article 706 – the obligation not to align only substitutes, the competition knew several formulas – the last one, inaugurated in 2009, exempts the qualified clubs in Europe in the first round, and guarantees the first four of the previous championship not to cross before the semi-finals. So many attempts to breathe a soul into a Cup "Lacking popular fervor", according to Guingamp president Bertrand Desplat in 2013.
On Wednesday, the LFP tried one last time to save the game to its golden trophy, designed in 2002 by the artist Pablo Reinoso. After the failure to find a broadcaster, two reform projects were on the table. The first was to bring together the best eight teams from the previous season in a competition that will be held during the holiday season – a format evoking the new skin of the Davis Cup in tennis. And the second imagined the creation of four geographical hens (north, south, east, west), prior to the quarterfinals. None of these assumptions, to believe The Team, convinced the board of directors of the LFP, which lowered the guillotine.
Twenty-five years of existence
Over the years, the "Mustache Cup", so nicknamed because of the immutable attachment of the former boss of the League to the hair attribute provided, Frédéric Thiriez, to defend the competition, has struggled to win in the hexagonal landscape. At best, it serves as a consolation prize allowing great clubs to save face after a failed season in «Building a list of achievements without embellishing it». The PSG and its eight trophies know something. Another usefulness: it allowed historic clubs to end the years of lean cow – like Marseille, in 2010, and Saint-Etienne in 2013.
Without ever acquiring the legitimacy or the patina of the more than centenary French Cup, the Coupe de la Ligue participated in the devaluation of the latter in the hierarchy of the hexagonal football. The only competition in which all the clubs of France participate, the Coupe de France has struggled to maintain its place – and its sponsors – with the multiplication of meetings.
Already sick, shunned by the public and viewers, the patient Coupe de la Ligue was placed under respiratory assistance in the fall of 2018 when he was joined by a profit naming with an Indian company "World leader in tires" for construction machinery. Far from demonstrating "Growing attractiveness" of the League Cup, according to the formula at the time of the boss of the LFP, Didier Quillot, this niche sponsor has embodied its erasure to come.
The League Cup will evaporate at the end of the 2019-2020 edition – with the possibility for the LFP of "Restart this competition later" – but she can always boast of having held out longer than her German counterparts (from 1997 to 2007) or Spanish (from 1982 to 1986). As for this ultimate edition, perhaps the idea of being the last in history to lift the golden trophy will revive the interest of clubs, players and the public. A last inventory disputed before liquidation.