The “League of Talents” has serious problems. Two years after the Blues world title in Russia and the invention of this nickname intended to promote the French championship, the Professional Football League (LFP) must rethink its organization.
There are, of course, the cyclical aspects: the in camera due to Covid-19 and, even more, the express disengagement of the broadcaster Mediapro, which must be faced financially. But there are also questions to be resolved over time, for a more viable economy and more livable football.
In the absence of a collective agreement on a reduction in wages, Tuesday, January 12, the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP), union organization of players, and the LFP have recognized a need: that of“Consider structural measures”, relating in particular to the “Competition format”, the “Staff limitation”, the ” Royalties “, or the “Training”.
Work better with less money? The idea could go through an imposed reduction of the workforce. In the current crisis, this is perhaps the avenue that will be explored the fastest.
Several clubs this season reach or exceed the number of 30 professional players, including Paris-Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille.
Co-President of the UNFP, Sylvain Kastendeuch suggests thinking about reducing this number in each workforce. And therefore to a reduction of posts. “The union does not yet have a common position on this, he explains to World. It might seem like a shame on my part, but I find that there are sometimes too many players in some clubs. ” The former footballer proposes the limit of 25 as “Basis of discussion”.
Establish a cap on the payroll
The economy of French football has “Always been fragile”, because subject to bidding. In the short term, wage ceilings could also constitute the“One of the only levers”, recalls the sports sociologist Manuel Schotté, teacher at the University of Lille.
Remuneration and social contributions represent the major part of club expenses, excluding income related to player transfers: the total wage bill for footballers from the twenty Ligue 1 clubs amounted to 1.58 billion euros during the 2018 season. 2019, or 54% of operating expenses, according to the annual report of the national management control department.
Hyperinflation also affects coaches, even in this time of crisis. Thursday January 14, The team revealed the salary of Mauricio Pochettino: the new arrival will receive 525,000 euros net per month, excluding bonuses, a record sum for a Parisian coach.
Addressed in April by Bernard Joannin, president of the Amiens Sporting Club, the prospect of salary cap (salary cap) is back in the debate today. “Some club leaders, with whom I talk, are in favor », Confirms the Parisian lawyer Sevan Karian, specialized in sports law. On condition, according to them, that this cap adapts “Proportional” to the recipes of each club.
The idea has been around for a long time. In the early 1980s, to avoid bankruptcy and fraudulent management, it almost became a reality. ” Reluctant, the players had obtained the counterpart of a special tax regime, indexed at the time on that of performing artists ”, explains M. Schotté. Finally, ” Laurent Fabius, then Minister for the Budget [1981-1983], had vetoed it. “
The practice of salary cap already applies in the United States for American football or basketball. Or in France and England for rugby, with however exemptions for English clubs: they can enroll a marquee player, player whose remuneration does not enter into the calculation of the ceiling.
Curb the resale of (young) players
The wage inflation observed for several decades is accompanied by another phenomenon: the trading of players, the sale of a footballer from one club to another, is a growing source of income. ” To put it in a trivial way, as soon as a president has a little money, he spends it on transfers, and therefore, salaries ”, notes sociologist Manuel Schotté.
Philippe Piat, co-president of the UNFP, has been warning for years against this system of added value made during the resale of a player, generally young. The “Football’s number one peril”, in France and abroad, according to him.
The trade unionist proposes a track: apply a protected period of three years without transfer for each contract of player under 28 years, and two years for the oldest.
Sign that the current crisis can change the clubs on this subject, at least in the speech: as soon as he arrived at the presidency of the Lille club, in December 2020, Olivier Létang announced to the press his intention to “Move from a very strong trading model to a more measured model”.
Reduce the rating with agents
The increases in transfers are accompanied by an increase in fees paid by clubs to sports agents, who intervene in negotiations on behalf of players.
In Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, the cumulative sum of these amounts amounts to 135,893 million euros for the 2019-2020 season. Top trio: Paris-Saint-Germain (26.9 million fees paid), Lille (23.4 million) and Lyon (20 million).
UNFP proposal: ensure that players pay agents directly. These latter, “On the whole, do not agree so far”, says Philippe Piat. “They know that by making the clubs pay they have significantly higher compensation. “
The context could also encourage a new training policy. French football has often highlighted the excellence of its football schools, in particular thanks to the world champions of 1998, then of 2018. But without trying at all costs to keep its young elements.
The consequences of Brexit could complicate transfers to the English league, with which French clubs have often made their best resales in recent years. And maybe allow these ” to keep their best elements for longer ”, wants to believe Grégory Lorenzi, sports director of the Brest stadium. “Investing at a lower cost in quality players, this must be the basic criterion for all clubs”, insists the leader, who pleads for the end of transfers at all costs.
Ask yourself the question of the championship format
Another debate, that of the format of the competitions. “Can French football still support a system of more than 40 professional clubs, including 20 in Ligue 1? “, asked Maxime Saada, boss of Canal +, in an interview with Figaro, Tuesday January 12. Old debate: between 1997 and 2002, the first division had already been reduced to 18 clubs. Without that putting an end to speculation.
Far from the game, far from the heart
“A friend asked me : ” Jean-Marc, do you see any young people who watch French football matches? Everyone around me is looking at Germany, England. And you know why ? Because we are ch…, Jean-Marc ” “. The anecdote is delivered by Jean-Marc Furlan, known for his taste for the beautiful game, now coach in Auxerre (second division). Boring matches, timid teams, too closed a game, coaches terrified of losing… the list is long of the criticisms leveled by some observers against the national spectacle. However, the better footballers play, the more (TV) spectators will watch them. The equation should be of interest to aesthetes of the game as well as managers, as the clubs depend on the bonanza of television rights. If he pleads for a football that “Must be aesthetic or, failing that, like sometimes a painting that is not fantastically beautiful, give you emotions”, Jean-Marc Furlan recognizes that France “Goes from far away” on this plane.