Blockbuster French TV deal under threat
August 1, 2014
Toulon lifted were crowned 2013/4 Top 14 champions in May © Getty Images
The Top 14's bumper television deal could be under threat after French authorities ruled that broadcaster Canal+ was awarded the exclusive rights in an unfair manner.
The LNR, the Top 14's governing body, has already announced that it will appeal against the decision by the French Competition Authority to suspend the five-year deal worth €355 million (£280m).
The new deal was set to begin this season, but a complaint by subscription sports channel BeIN Sports alleged that the LNR and Canal+ - the league's long-time broadcasting partner - excluded it from the bidding process, a view which was supported by the Competition Authority.
The suspension will not take effect until the 2015/16 season as, with kick off for the new Top 14 campaign just a fortnight away, it would be impossible to stage a new rights auction in time for the current season.
The Competition Authority's decision has caused anger among French rugby bosses, with officials warning that the Top 14's smaller clubs could feel the squeeze if the blockbuster broadcast deal falls through.
"This decision is very worrying for the smaller clubs" Brive vice-president Simon Gilham said. "With the five-year deal we were guaranteed some visibility and it allowed us to put in place short and medium-term projects, including signing players on three-year deals.
"Now it's as if your job contract went from three years to one year.
"Do you understand the impact of €2m on a budget of €12m? It's huge. I understand why the richer clubs haven't reacted, but for everyone else the consequences are much more serious. This decision will cost us visibility and I'm very grateful that the LNR has decided to appeal the decision."
LNR chief Paul Goze was similarly outraged. He told French newspaper Midi Olympique: "This decision is unjustified, incongruous and open to criticism."
The league's heavyweight clubs are less concerned that they will miss out on revenue as a result of the decision. Racing Métro President Jacky Lorenzetti said: "Why would the result of the new bidding process be lower than the deal that has already been signed? I'm not worried about this decision. We need to let the law follow this through."
The LNR now has until January 31 2015 to put in place a new bidding process.
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