French pay-television broadcasters beIN Sports and Canal Plus have been hit by a legal claim launched on behalf of subscribers aggrieved at their lack of compensation offered amidst the shutdown of sports events, including Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 football.
The French league has been the outlier amongst Europe’s ‘big five’ after its 2019-20 season was terminated in April when French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced that the current campaigns of professional sports, including football, would not be able to resume because of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
BeIN and Canal Plus have since reached deals with the French Football League (LFP) over rights fee payments, but their apparent unwillingness to compensate their customers has led to the action launched by lawyers Vincent Durand and Pierre-Henri Julliard on behalf of a group of subscribers.
The lawyers have been gathering complaints from subscribers, according to Le Parisien. A statement on behalf of the lawyers cited by the newspaper reads: “The subscribers to Canal Plus and beIN Sports have been deprived of the matches of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 which should have been broadcast between March 14 and the end of May, without any financial compensation being offered to them.
“At the same time, the broadcasters categorically refused to settle the balance of television rights for the current season and jeopardised the finances of many clubs, asserting that the consideration for paying the rights was absent.
“A collective action is launched today (Monday) against Canal Plus and beIN Sports to request the reimbursement of paid subscriptions for the months of March, April and May.”
If the procedure is successful, subscribers have been asked to either keep the compensation paid out or direct it to their favourite club to help them during the Covid-19 crisis.
The statement added: “A legal action against each channel will be brought by means of a summons on behalf of the subscribers registered in the collective action before the appropriate courts.”
The LFP and beIN last week settled the thorny issue of outstanding international broadcast rights fee payments. The LFP announced on Friday that its board finalised an agreement with beIN that “definitively settles the rights owed” for the 2019-20 season.
The compromise deal reportedly means that beIN will pay €16.5m ($18.3m) instead of the €35m owed. Qatar-headquartered beIN holds the Ligue 1 international rights in six-year deal from 2018-19 to 2023-24 worth an average of €80m per season. The deal was agreed in 2014.
The fee instalment of €35m due at the end of April was not paid by beIN amid the suspension of the French top flight. An accord with beIN on the international rights followed on from agreements with beIN and Canal Plus over domestic rights fee payments. BeIN also missed a €42m fee instalment for its domestic rights before reaching a €10.6m settlement for matches already played.