France has represented a significantly different approach to its suspended 2019/20 football season following coronavirus, with the country declaring an end to the Ligue 1 season early rather than attempting to restart the action behind closed doors like many of Europe’s other top leagues. Partly in response to the legal restrictions put in place by the French government on events, which would have severely limited if not entirely blocked any attempts to restart the season, the early conclusion to the season did create one serious question which had been a fear for suspended leagues throughout the world: what happens regarding relegation?
For Ligue 1, the two teams facing the drop from the top flight as a result of the early end to the season were Toulouse and Amiens. Despite the teams sitting in the relegation zone at the conclusion of the Ligue 1 season, the teams had enough fixtures left to theoretically save themselves from dropping into Ligue 2 for next season.
In Amiens’ case, that was enough to prompt legal action. The French club laid out their case simply: how could it be fair to relegate the club at that arbitrary date when they up until the day before had enough time to still save themselves? They were facing a significant financial hit by falling out of the top flight despite on paper not yet being condemned to relegation.
In the courtroom of France’s highest administrative court, the same question was asked and at least at present the ruling has fallen in favour of Amiens and Toulouse. There was no doubt, particularly given the wider legal restrictions in place in the country, that the Ligue 1 season had to be ended early, but the relegation of the league’s bottom two clubs has been suspended at present, suggesting the 2020/21 Ligue 1 season could well start up again with an inflated number of teams.
For exactly the same reasons that Amiens argued they couldn’t be relegated, the sides to have been awarded promotion following the cancellation of Ligue 2 – Lorient and Lens – will have to be promoted to the top flight. As such, we could well be forced to see a 22-team Ligue 1 season featuring some sort of mass relegation or restructure afterwards.