French football facing ‘unprecedented’ crisis, Lyon chief warns government

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The head of Olympique Lyonnais football club (OL) has written to the French government warning that the sport is facing an “unprecedented economic and social crisis”.

In his open letter to France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu, Jean-Michel Aulas also calls for training to resume in June with a view for matches to restart during the summer months.

France’s Ligue 1 is the only European top-flight league to have been brought to an end and training has not yet been allowed to resume. Furthermore, the government has indicated major sports competitions — including football — won’t begin again until September at the earliest.

In contrast, Germany’s Bundesliga resumed behind closed doors earlier this month while the UK’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A are expected to return to stadiums in June.

Aulas’s OL was seventh in the ranking when the government put an end to the football season on April 28 and thus they failed to qualify for Europe’s Champions League for the first time in 20 years.

The OL club president also flagged that “the financial situation of French clubs is terrible. A definitive end to the season would lead French football into an unprecedented economic and social crisis.”

He warned that because of its decision which went against guidelines from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to wait and see, the state could be forced to “engage its own responsibility in the face of the clubs’ colossal deficit” estimated at between €700 million and €900 million.

French authorities began to relax COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on May 11 and further easing is expected to start on June 2.

“Many developments and hopes are expected on this date for France to gradually regain a good dynamic,” Aulas noted.

“Could we imagine that June 2 is also a great opportunity to rectify the mistake concerning French football and allow, with a sanitary protocol used everywhere, to give the starting point for a progressive resumption of training (in June) and, why not, a resumption of the championships of the 2019/2020 season in July or August?,” Aulas went on.

Guidelines from the Ministry of Sports released earlier this month allowed elite athletes to resume training except those from team or contact sports.

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