Move meant only two teams instead of three would drop to Ligue 2
28 July ~ In May the body that runs France’s top two divisions (LFP) believed it was “modernising” football when it took the decision to reduce the number of teams promoted from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1 from three to two. The plan was to eventually install the same promotion and relegation system between Ligue 2 and National (France’s third tier) as well. “We’ve made the changes because big investors in the game need a bit more security,” said LFP president Frédéric Thiriez. “Three promotion and relegation places is too many.”
There were immediate complaints from prominent Ligue 2 figures. Jean-Luc Vannuchi, the manager that led Ligue 2 side Auxerre to the French Cup final last May, said: “Our aim in 2015-16 is to challenge for promotion so it’s obviously a major handicap for us. There will be plenty of Ligue 2 sides that might be pleased as their only objective is avoiding relegation but for teams targeting promotion this makes things a lot more difficult.”
Neutrals also raised concerns. “Obviously it’s a means of protecting Ligue 1,” said former France and Lyon goalkeeper Grégory Coupet, now a radio pundit on RMC. “You could argue that with only two promotion positions up for grabs, teams will have to go for the win more. But on the other hand, two-up, two-down might reduce the drama and suspense at the end of the season. With three promotion and relegation positions, there are more teams with something at stake during the run-in.”
The decision seemed to have been made – until last week, that is, when the executive committee of the French Football Federation (FFF) overturned it. FFF president Noël le Graët explained why: “Separating Ligue 1 from Ligue 2 and National is not a good thing. We’ve taken a sensible, fair and important decision for the greater good of football.”
Le Graët has invited Thiriez to “sit down around a table” to discuss the matter but for now the two men seem set on a collision course. Reacting furiously to the FFF’s overruling, Thiriez said the affair was a “major crisis” between the LFP and the FFF. He has promised to appeal at government level. There are reports that some Ligue 2 clubs would be willing to boycott league fixtures should Thiriez win his appeal and the two-up, two-down system be introduced.
The new Ligue 2 season kick-off this Friday night – but at the moment no one is talking about the football. James Eastham