French prime minister declares soccer season over

France's Ligue 1 became the first of the big five European leagues to be shut down for the season when prime minister Edouard Philippe said pro sports would not resume.

“The 2019-2020 season of professional sports, especially that of football, will not be able to resume,” Philippe told parliament on Tuesday in announcing steps to end the national lock-down that was put in place on March 17. “To give event organizers visibility, I want to make it clear that major sporting and cultural events, in particular festivals, major trade fairs, all events that bring together more than 5,000 participants and are therefore the subject of a declaration at the police headquarters and must be organized well in advance, cannot be held before September."

Philippe's remarks were a blow to the hopes of French soccer authorities to resume play behind closed doors in June. On Friday, French federation president Noel Le Graet proposed  that play might resume in mid-June with two cup finals -- PSG-St. Etienne in the French Cup and PSG-Lyon in the French League Cup -- followed by the resumption of play in Ligue 1.

The other three pro soccer leagues -- Ligue 2, third-tier National and the D1 Feminine -- and the pro rugby league were also shut down with Philippe's orders.

PSG and Lyon crowned again. Paris St. Germain, which led second-place Marseille by 12 points with a game in hand, is expected to be crowned Ligue 1 champion, while Lyon will win the D1 Feminine for a record 14th year in a row.

PSG and Lyon's men's and women's teams are both still alive in UEFA's respective Champions League competitions. Without a reprieve, any home games for French teams will have to be played abroad, assuming UEFA tries to finish the competitions.

August restart? French soccer authorities were hopeful Tuesday night that they be allowed to start the 2020-21 Ligue 1 season -- behind closed doors -- in early August. The start of the Tour de France, France's biggest summer sporting event, was moved to late August and is expected to start on schedule.

TV settlement. Philippe's move came four days after Canal Plus and beIN Sports, two pay-television broadcasters, reached an agreement with the French league over the payment for rights to Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches already played. They had held out final payments totaling $164.3 million. They agreed to pay $51 million, a reduced amount over what was owed for games already played.

Ligue 1 clubs are expected to lose 400 million euros ($436 million) in reduced game-day, commercial and television revenues for the last 10 games of the season that won't be played.

They are expected to take a huge hit in the summer with the likely collapse of the player transfer market. France ranked fourth in the world, behind Portugal, Brazil and the Netherlands in terms of net transfer fees.

The end of the season means relegation for last-place Toulouse, but president Olivier Sadran accepted the decision.

"For me, football wins by not continuing," he told L'Equipe. "The politicians have made the right decision. The thing that drove everybody to get back underway was the economic argument."
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