French sports rights row rumbles on

France’s Professional Football League (LFP) has denied that Orange and Eurosport have joined Canal+ in challenging its call for bids for the next round of Ligue 1 TV rights, covering the 2016-20 seasons.

The LFP’s move follows reports over the weekend that Orange, which currently holds mobile rights to Ligue 1 matches, and Eurosport, while holds the rights to Ligue 2 matches, have written to the football body to protest about the deadline for bids, currently fixed for April 2.

Last Tuesday, Canal+ lodged a legal appeal with the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance seeking the suspension of the bidding process after lodging a complaint with the French competition regulator about the process.

The LFP said that “no other candidate interested in the distribution rights has demanded the suspension of the appeal for bids” and that “neither has any candidate joined Canal+’s action or shown such an intention”.

The controversy follows the LFP’s decision to bring forward the bidding process for the 2016-20 seasons, with LFP president Frédéric Thiriez telling Le Figaro newspaper that “French clubs have an absolute need for visibility of their revenues for the coming years”.

Canal+ has told the competition regulator that the decision to alter the timing of the bidding process could result in it losing subscribers, or failing to gain new customers, as a result of uncertainty about the future of the rights, the main body of which is currently split between Canal+ and Al Jazeera’s beIN Sport.

The court is expected to rule on Friday on whether the LFP can go ahead with its call for bids. Canal+ is arguing that the introduction of bidding a full 28 months in advance is unprecedented in Europe, with 19 months usually seen as the maximum.