Senior Sports Editor
TINO KADEWERE’S French Ligue 1 side, Olympique Lyonnais, have challenged authorities to look at the possibility of completing the season they brought to a premature end last week.
The seven-time French champions have already warned they could claim millions of dollars in lost revenue should the authorities stick with their decision to end the season.
The 24-year-old Zimbabwe international forward sealed a US$16,6 million four-and-half year deal with Lyon in January after starring at Ligue 2 side Le Havre.
He was loaned back to Le Havre, where he finished as the Ligue 2 Golden Boot winner, when the season was abruptly ended last week because of the complications brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Kadewere is now set to move to Olympique Lyonnais.
However, his new employers have been rocking the boat in the French top-flight league, especially after authorities decided to abandon all the top leagues, with Paris St Germain being declared champions.
The move did not go down well with Lyon officials, who believe it put them at a disadvantage, given the club will be deprived of European football for the first time in more than a quarter-of-a-century.
The club have been regular participants in the UEFA competitions and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2010 and the same stage of the Europa League three years ago.
Lyon were beaten 5-4 on aggregate by eventual losing finalists, Ajax Amsterdam, in the 2017 Europa League semi-finals, in one of the great duels of European club football in recent years.
After being swept away 1-4 in Amsterdam, in the first leg, Lyon fought long and hard in the second leg at home and won the match 3-1, coming within just one goal of forcing the battle to spill into extra-time.
However, given they were seventh, at the time the league was abandoned, they missed out with Olympique Marseille getting the other Champions League place while Rennes made the qualifying phase for the tournament.
Lille and Reims made it into the Europa League while Nice grabbed the last slot for European places by taking the qualifying slot for this tournament.
Yesterday, Lyon president, Jean-Michel Aulas, said the expected resumption of football in Germany, and other countries in Europe, shows the French championship could still be completed, despite the decisions taken by authorities last week.
“I’ve noted that training had resumed in almost 10 European countries. By adapting our method, we would probably have been able to complete the season,” Aulas told French sports daily L’Equipe yesterday.
“We’re on a wrong track but it’s not too late to try and think about something coherent.
“As long as there’s life, there’s hope. For all the people whose main argument to tell us to stop was that all the other leagues would stop, (Germany’s decision) is a very important step.’’
Aulas is challenging the decision to end the campaign, arguing it is unfair, given there were still 10 more league matches to play and his side could still have overtaken those above them.
This could have seen them, he argues, qualifying for the European competitions who come with rich financial pickings for the participants.
“It’s a big loss of opportunity that has a financial value that amounts to dozens of million euros, which will be claimed in damages,” Aulas told a local newspaper Le Progres.
“We see that these standings are illogical. I don’t want to single out a club more than another but Nice played at home more than us and faced Paris St Germain (PSG) only once while we played them twice.
“Over the last 10 years, OL (Olympique Lyonnais) caught up at least three times with the second-placed team while lagging more than 10 points behind.’’
Should his appeal be dismissed, with the French football authorities saying they will take a hardline approach to avoid chaos, it means that Lyon — French champions for seven years in a row between 2002 and 2008 will not be part of the European football competitions for the first time since 1996.
Aulas has been receiving support from Amiens, who were relegated along with Toulouse, when the championship was decared over last week.
“It is an injustice,” Amiens president Bernard Joannin said in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I’ll fight with all the teams to assert our right, because I think this decision isn’t right. We will wait for the minutes of the LFP board of directors.”
It appears the French authorities are aware this will eventually spill into legal challenges which will be decided by the courts of law in that country.
“If they want to go to court, let them go,” French Sports Minister, Roxana Maracineanu, told RMC Sport. “I appeal to everyone’s solidarity and responsibility.
“I appeal to the wealthy and better off that they don’t split hairs . . . We must also think of others and society. The world must know how to take its losses.”
French authorities expect to start the new season, for next year’s championships, in August.
However, that will depend on the legal challenges which the clubs, who believe they got a raw deal from the way the season was brought to an end, will mount in the coming weeks.
Then, of course, there is the bigger issue for the French football authorities to handle, before the new season can start, with beIN Sports and Canal+ refusing to pay out the remainder of the season’s TV rights money, estimated at around US$200 million. The New York Times newspaper has already reported that the French league will try to secure a bridge loan to make up for those lost funds.