Ligue 1 clubs start French football season with everything to play for

Ligue 1 clubs start French football season with everything to play for


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AS Saint Etienne players collapse after being beaten by Auxerre at the end of the L1-L2 second leg playoff soccer match at Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne, May 29, 2022.

It’s a pre-season ritual. Each year, as the championship approaches, football specialists and fans like to analyze the current list of Ligue 1 clubs and divide it into key categories: clubs that are championship title contenders, those that will finish the year with a runner-up spot that will Qualify them for the European Cup, and those who will have to fight to keep their place among the French football elite.

In the run-up to the start of the 2022-2023 season on Friday, August 5 with the Lyon-Ajaccio match, the last category was unusually full. This year, four teams will go straight to the Ligue 2 and two will be promoted from Ligue 2 as normal. This is an increase of two relegated teams as the league must go from 20 to 18 clubs for the 2023-2024 season.

The reduction was approved in June 2021 by the Professional Football League (LFP)’s general assembly almost unanimously, with 97.28% of the votes and only the Metz club voting against it. There are several objectives. First, reducing the number of matches (from 38 to 34 per club) will free up dates in a calendar otherwise weighed down by the new format of the Champions League. The new format, to be implemented in 2024-2025, promises at least two additional matches per participating team.

In addition to the desire to put the French teams in the best position on the international stage, the objective is above all financial. With fewer clubs, each will earn a larger share of the revenue from the television broadcasting rights that are to be auctioned in 2023 for the 2024-2028 period.

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‘No one can feel safe’

It is therefore a season of transition that starts with this weekend’s matches. But like the flat stages of the last Tour de France, it is not precisely a transition. The season is shaping up to be one of great danger, in particular for recently promoted teams, who are often among the most vulnerable in the year after their ascent to Ligue 1.

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“It just so happens that we’ve been promoted in the year when there will be four relegations. It’s a bit stupid, but that’s the way it is,” said AJ Auxerre club coach Jean-Marc Furlan. AJA, like the other two teams promoted (Toulouse and Ajaccio), will be on the front line in a fight for survival that will involve many teams. “We’ll be one of the favorites to go down, legitimately,” said Pascal Gastien, the coach of Clermont, in 17th place and the first ineligible team last season.

Even for clubs that have been in Ligue 1 for years, the cut-off point is on everyone’s mind. This is the case for Montpellier, a Ligue 1 team since 2009 that won the 2011 title. “Everyone is afraid to end up among the four relegated teams, except for the very big clubs,” said coach Olivier Dall’Oglio, “The cases of Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne, [relegated to Ligue 2 at the end of last season] prove that nobody can feel safe. We have this sword of Damocles over our heads, we must be very careful.”

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Ligue 1 clubs start French football season with everything to play for

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