Sunday evening, Bernard Gonzales, Stade de Reims Football club’s doctor committed suicide. He left a letter explaining that he was a victim of the coronavirus. More than a doctor, Bernard Gonzales was an emblematic figure of the historic Reims club, which had seen a rebirth in the past years. His demise deeply shocked the French football league, which now seems completely disoriented.
For French football leaders, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA’s) threats to exclude from European competitions all nations that do not finish their national championship has fallen on deaf ears. In France, fear and stupor now dominate.
At the end of March, French club leaders had nevertheless agreed on the need to resume the championship at all costs to avoid losing TV rights. Bernard Le Saint, president of Brest, firmly opposed; and was the only one at the time. This is no longer the case. The biggest defenders of the league’s recovery like Jean-Michel Aulas, president of Olympique Lyonnais, and Bernard Caïzzo, co-president of AS St-Etienne and boss of the powerful “Premier League”, have now changed their narrative.
“It would be ridiculous to replay every two days and finish in less than a month,” said Bernard Caïzzo. “We must resume under normal conditions.” Yet nothing seems normal in a country, which, like most others, has no idea how long, it will be in lockdown.
However, what will happen with no recovery, no TV rights, and an economic crisis ensured after COVID 19! The president of Canal Plus, Maxime Saada reiterated to French daily newspaper L’Equipe: “We are not a bank. We don’t have to insure clubs’ treasury. We apply a contract, it’s the law.”
To add to the confusion, Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, president of Paris Saint Germain (PSG) has been chosen by his peers to negotiate with TV broadcaster heads. Yet, he is also the head of BeIn Sports, co-holder of Ligue 1 TV rights. Like Canal Plus, BeIn Sports has refused to pay for matches that no longer exist.
The players haven’t said anything. They have been asked by their clubs to remain discreet. They are partially unemployed, and the public accuses them of living a comfortable lockdown.
Amid this havoc, the French Football Federation has just signed a “BIG” cheque of an undisclosed amount and has hired its stars to make a video-clip – from Antoine Griezman to Blaise Matuidi (who tested positive for the coronavirus). They do not praise their merits, but the efforts of the new heroes of the news.
Every evening, the majority of French people are on their balconies, applauding the healthcare workers, who didn’t have the chance to save Bernard Gonzales, doctor for Stade de Reims.
Source: Jean -Paul Savart| AIPS Executive Committee member