Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain were named as Ligue 1 champions on Thursday after France’s football league declared the coronavirus-hit season over.
PSG led the table by 12 points from Marseille when the season was suspended in mid-March because of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has gone on to kill over 24,000 people in France.
The announcement by the LFP comes after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Tuesday that “professional sports leagues, notably football, cannot restart” because of the pandemic.
“There is no ambiguity about this declaration. We needed to make a final decision about this season. We acknowledge that the 2019-20 season is over,” said LFP president Nathalie Boy de la Tour, in a conference call with reporters.
France becomes the biggest European league yet to end its season, just as its neighbours in England, Germany, Italy and Spain consider ways of resuming matches.
Ruling out any possibility of copying the Netherlands, who voided their season without a champion, relegation or promotion, the LFP arranged a final table on the basis of average points per game.
Ten rounds of matches remained when the campaign was halted, although PSG and Strasbourg both had a game in hand.
As a result, PSG are champions with an average of 2.52 points per game, with Andre Villas-Boas’s Marseille second with an average of 2 points and qualifying for the Champions League.
– Title dedicated to health workers –
“We wish to dedicate this title to all health workers and other everyday heroes whose commitment and self-sacrifice throughout these long weeks deserve our admiration,” said PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi in a statement.
It is PSG’s ninth French title, the seventh in eight seasons for the Qatar-owned club being awarded in unique circumstances and with many of their foreign players — including Neymar — having returned to their home countries with France under strict lockdown.
“We understand, respect and support the decisions taken by the French government to stop the season. Health, as the government has always said, must be everyone’s priority,” added Al-Khelaifi, whose club still hope to be able to continue their Champions League campaign having reached the quarter-finals before action stopped.
Rennes finish third and also qualify for the Champions League, while fourth-placed Lille will play in the Europa League.
– Economic consequences –
Toulouse and Amiens, the bottom two, are condemned to relegation, with Lorient, as champions, and Lens coming up from Ligue 2.
However, Toulouse have kept open the possibility that they might now take legal action.
The identity of the other European representatives depends on whether the finals of the two domestic cups are ever played.
Large gatherings of people remain banned in France until September.
However, if the French government and UEFA accept, both finals could be staged in early August with European places still up for grabs. The LFP then hopes to begin next season by August 23 “at the latest”.
PSG were due to play Lyon in the League Cup final and Saint-Etienne in the French Cup final. If the games are eventually played, Lyon and Saint-Etienne could qualify for the Europa League by winning.
Otherwise, Nice and Reims would qualify by virtue of finishing in fifth and sixth in the league.
Lyon — seventh in the table when the season was stopped — would otherwise miss out on European qualification for the first time in over two decades.
Ironically, they were still involved in this season’s Champions League when it was suspended, leading Juventus 1-0 after the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas had previously stated his hope that the season could still be played to a conclusion in August.
“Maybe there will be appeals, but the decisions taken…are solid,” said LFP director general Didier Quillot.
Nevertheless, for all clubs, the economic consequences of ending the season now could be dire.
Resuming matches behind closed doors would have safeguarded TV income, but the loss for clubs in the top two divisions of remaining payments from broadcasters Canal Plus and beIN Sports is believed to be as high as 243 million euros ($266 million), plus 35 million euros for international rights.
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