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Canal+ forced to continue broadcasting Ligue 1

A French court has ruled in favour of BeIN Sports in the Qatar-based broadcaster’s dispute with pay-TV network Canal+ over a sublicensing deal for rights to domestic soccer’s top-flight Ligue 1.

The long-running legal battle dates back to the collapse of the Professional Football League’s (LFP) €800 million (US$880 million) a year deal with Spanish media agency Mediapro in December 2020.

Canal+ had previously sought to hand back its rights for two games per week, which it sublicences from BeIN and pays €330 million (US$363 million) a season.

Vivendi-owned Canal+ had also called on the LFP to launch a new domestic broadcast tender after the Mediapro deal unravelled.

Amazon then secured the majority of domestic broadcast rights to Ligue 1 for three seasons from 2021/22 to 2023/24 in a deal reportedly worth €250 million (US$275 million) per annum. Canal+ has since contested the value it is paying for its games. The broadcaster also threatened to boycott its own Ligue 1 agreement as a result of Amazon’s deal, though has continued to show matches.

The Versailles Court of Appeal has now sided with BeIN in its dispute, meaning Canal+ will have to continue paying for the games it sublicences from BeIN. If it does not, it will be fined €1 million (US$1.1 million) a day.

BeIN had previously taken legal action against the LFP after losing a legal case against Canal+. The court ruled that the Canal+ was legally entitled to suspend its sublicensing contract with BeIN. However, the court also ordered that the payments had to resume if BeIN sued the LFP.

BeIN secured a conciliatory procedure from the Nanterre Commercial Court last summer, meaning it would not be required to make the payments itself should the verdict go against it at the Versailles Court of Appeal.

The ruling from the Nanterre Commercial Court had also ordered Canal+ to fulfill its rights agreement with BeIN. Canal+ said at the time that it would appeal the decision.

Elsewhere in French soccer, the LFP’s investment deal with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners was unanimously approved at the LFP general assembly meeting on 1st April.

Last month, it was announced the pair were in exclusive talks for CVC to acquire a 13 per cent stake worth €1.5 billion (US$1.7 billion) in the LFP’s new commercial company that will handle the selling of Ligue 1 broadcast rights. The LFP had valued the subsidiary at €11.5 billion (US$12.7 billion). Clubs had already agreed to the proposal prior to the general assembly meeting.

The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of July, after consultation with representative bodies of LFP staff and obtaining authorisation from regulatory bodies. Sports Pro Media

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