French Court Upholds Decision to End Ligue 1 Season but Suspends Relegation

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PARIS (AP) — France’s highest administrative court on Tuesday upheld the decision to cancel the rest of the domestic soccer season amid the coronavirus pandemic and suspended the relegations of Amiens and Toulouse to the second division.

The Conseil d’Etat issued its ruling after Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas and the two demoted clubs took the case to court. Amiens and Toulouse pleaded to have their relegation overturned while Lyon hoped it could get a favorable ruling forcing the league to play the remaining 10 matches of the aborted season.

The league was canceled on April 30 with Paris Saint-Germain declared champion, while Lyon finished outside the European places in seventh.

The Conseil d’Etat ruled that there was “no serious doubt as to the legality of the decision” to end the season prematurely. However, it suspended the relegation of Amiens and Toulouse, ordering the French league to rethink the format of the 2020-21 season before June 30.

Amiens and Toulouse have proposed a 22-team league next season. They had argued that their relegation was unjust because there were no statutes in place for such a scenario, and that it was an arbitrary decision considering the standings could have been different if the pandemic had led to the league shutting down earlier.

In its ruling, the judge considered that the French league’s board could not base its decision to demote the last two Ligue 1 teams on the fact that the agreement concluded with the French football federation (FFF) provided for a limit of 20 clubs. The court pointed out that the current deal with the FFF expires on June 30 and that a new accord will have to be signed.

The French league did not immediately react to the ruling.

Last month, Aulas had written to French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu to plead his case, arguing that the premature conclusion of the season would have catastrophic financial consequences for French clubs.

He said the fact that the French league was the only one among the seven biggest European leagues to opt for an early end should convince authorities to reconsider their move. In Europe, the Bundesliga resumed last month, while Spain’s La Liga is restarting on June 12. The English Premier League is set to resume on June 17, and Italy’s Serie A three days later.

Lyon, meanwhile, can still qualify for the Europa League if it beats PSG in the League Cup final, which was not canceled. And the seven-time French champions still hope to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League after beating Italian champion Juventus 1-0 in the first leg of their round of 16 match on Feb. 26. The return leg in Turin was suspended.