LFP votes to keep Ligue 1 at 20 clubs, relegating Amiens and Toulouse

(L-R) Moussa KONATE of Amiens and Sreven MOREIRA of Toulouse during the Ligue 1 match between Amiens and Toulouse at Stade de la Licorne on February 1, 2020 in Amiens, France. (Photo by Dave Winter/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

The General Assembly of the French Professional League (LFP) has voted to maintain the current structure of Ligue 1, the top football division in France, ratifying the relegation of Amiens and Toulouse.

The two clubs finished in 19th and 20th place receptively in Ligue 1, and are arguing that the early curtailment of the season represented an unfair disadvantage. Bernard Joannin, president of Amiens, had written to his counterparts at other clubs which make up the General Assembly to argue for the expansion of the division to 22 teams for the 2020-21 season, allowing both his side and Toulouse to remain in the division.

That proposal was voted down, with 74.49 per cent of the General Assembly favouring a 20-club league. The vote of the General Assembly ratifies the decision made by the LFP’s executive board on Friday, when there were 23 votes for the retention of a 20-team league and two abstentions.

An LFP statement following the meeting said: “This vote came after an in-depth examination of the sporting stakes of a League 1 to 20, 21 or 22 clubs on the competition calendar for 2020-2021 and the consequences for the health of the players.

“This review also looked at the financial impact, the distribution of audiovisual rights and the contractual repercussions with League 1 broadcasters.”

The news is unlikely to signal the last of the legal action taken by the two relegated clubs or by Lyon, which is appealing after missing out on European football next season, though it does represent the closing of one avenue of appeal. The ruling by the Conseil d’État had suspended the relegation of the two clubs on the grounds that the LFP’s decision was based on a lapsed agreement between the league and the federation. The latest LFP vote, however, reaffirms the number of clubs eligible to play in Ligue 1 at 20.

Theoretically, the decision could be overturned at the Federal Assembly of the French Football Federation, which is due to take place this Friday, though their decision is expected to mirror that of the LFP. The LFP will then convene a board of directors meeting in order to decide on the calendar for the 2020-21 season.

Authorities in France are believed to be planning for the next season with fans in stadiums. Earlier this month, Roxana Mărăcineanu, the county’s Minister of Sports, outlined ambitious plans to open French sporting events to a maximum of 5,000 fans as soon as the end of July. Currently, the rest of Europe’s top five leagues – the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga and Spain’s LaLiga – are playing out the conclusions to their 2019-20 seasons behind closed doors.