Sunday evening, Téléfoot, the football channel, broadcast its last program. Met this Monday, Jean-Michel Roussier, the former editorial director, defends the results of his action and the work of his teams for a little over six months.
What is your feeling after stopping Téléfoot?
JEAN-MICHEL ROUSSIER. Great pride in all that we have achieved. Sure, there is a feeling of a mess, but it took a lot of work over a year to put everything together. The commitment we made to the League and the 40 club presidents was to promote the two championships. We achieved this by establishing a real close relationship with the clubs, as I had never seen on any other channel.
Did you understand and share the emotion of many of your presenters during their last appearances on the air?
This emotion was legitimate. It’s been two months since we know we are going to quit, and those weeks have been complicated. It took a lot of energy from everyone, and while there was a lot of sadness, there was also a lot of dignity in the last 48-72 hours. I had known him with CFoot ( Editor’s note: the old channel of the LFP ) because I have the bad luck to be a manager who closed two football channels in 2012 and 2021.
Téléfoot has never exceeded 500,000 subscribers. Do you regret that few people have finally been able to appreciate the work of your teams?
Unfortunately, we cannot go back. Some would say that it is a shame that these programs have not been accessible to more people. But concerning my mission which was to direct this editorial staff, I feel, I repeat, a great pride vis-à-vis the work accomplished.
When at the end of September, the president of Mediapro, Jaume Roures, announces his intention to renegotiate the price of the TV rights for L1 and L2, do you see what will happen?
No, for a simple reason: I am not involved in that part of the case. I am not in the negotiation. This is not jargon. Afterwards, I think objectively that it was not illegitimate that he wanted to renegotiate.
You don’t say to yourself at the time: are we going straight into a wall?
I think this renegotiation promises to be very complicated. We are emerging from a very delicate transfer window for French clubs which did not give, in terms of sales in particular, what they could hope for. And I tell myself that the conjunction of dates is not the most favorable.
At no time have you, like club presidents, felt fooled by Mediapro?
I can easily imagine that club presidents had this feeling. But that didn’t stop them from collaborating with us. They had no obligation vis-à-vis Téléfoot. And they continued to play the game until the last day. Me fooled, why?
Because the shareholder quickly let you go …
Berné no, that made me ch… yes. But I don’t think for a moment that Roures started the channel knowing that three or four months later he was going to lower the curtain.
However, the risks have at least been poorly assessed by the various parties?
I think that if, and I insist on the if, on the evening of May 29, 2018, when Mediapro won the rights to L1, Vincent Bolloré and Maxime Saada, who were not really delighted with the turn of events, went promised that whatever happens they would never distribute Mediapro, it was done in advance.
Are you still in contact with Jaume Roures and in what condition is he?
Yes. Even though I’m not a close friend, I think he’s hurt. Concretely, he still lost some money. But that’s the rule, business. I have no more information to give about it.
You responded on your behalf to the League’s call for tenders a week ago. Can you draw us the outlines of your proposal?
There were three conditions for me to be able to respond to the call for tenders. 1. Have an agreement with the Mediapro group to take over the assets of Téléfoot (Editor’s note: whose writing), which made it possible to continue a television channel activity. It was done with Jaume Roures. 2. To be able to find an investment fund to raise debt, ie borrow money. 3. Obtain from the Canal group a distribution of this channel on satellite on conditions that are otherwise advantageous, in any case economically viable. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain the third condition for lack of agreement with Canal.
However, you still submitted a file to the Football League last Monday, right?
Under these conditions, I could no longer respond to the Football League’s call for tenders with a firm financial offer, but only with “income sharing”, that is to say the sharing of the revenue generated. The idea was to cover the costs of creation and exploitation, and we would have donated 85% of the amount of revenue generated to the League.
But the League did not accept your offer …
Exactly. Because the other three (Editor’s note: Amazon, Discovery and DAZN) made a firm offer.
Did you discuss your project with the League during the over-the-counter discussions?
I maintained my “income sharing” proposal on the basis of a principle: the clubs voted in general assembly to create a commercial company, one of the goals of which will be to market TV rights. My project was to create this television channel, and then to transfer it to the commercial company, therefore to the clubs. This would have already enabled them to have the production and distribution tool, and thus to give value to the future commercial company.
What did the club presidents tell you to whom you presented this project?
Those with whom I discussed this project were very supportive. Most are convinced that depending on an operator, regardless of its quality, which is publisher and distributor, is a major risk for the future. If there is only one operator, he will set the market price. And the League, or the commercial company, will no longer control anything. She can set the reserve prices she wants, it is the buyer who will decide.
Isn’t it normal, under these conditions, that you did not find a distribution agreement with Maxime Saada, the chairman of the management board of the Canal group?
It’s possible. As it is likely that Maxime may not have wanted what has been mistakenly presented as the League channel never see the light of day.
Did this channel have a name?
She could have continued, or she could continue, to be called Téléfoot. This was part of the takeover contracts with Mediapro, in agreement with TF1 of course.
Have you abandoned this project?
No. I don’t have very short term goals. But I am convinced that it is a real alternative. It is not good to be right very early on. I am awaiting the decision of the commercial court at the end of February to find out whether there is a global call for tenders or the possibility of mutual agreement procedures. This last option assumes that we can discuss. But if I have to go back, it will be with a firm and responsive financial offer.
What is your view on the agreement concluded last Thursday between the Football League and Canal + until the end of the championship?
I don’t want to be judgmental. But if I had been on the board of the LFP, I would have voted as they voted, because there was no choice. The economic situation of the clubs was catastrophic in the very short term.
PODCAST. TV rights of French football: story of the Mediapro fiasco
Amazon and Discovery responded to the League’s tender last week. How do you appreciate the arrival of these operators from the United States?
This is the best thing that can happen in French football. Especially since they did not just test the waters, even if I note that in the discussions by mutual agreement with the League, none of the prizes were awarded to them. But the two complaints of Canal + before the commercial court and the Competition Authority have cooled many people. As long as this threat exists, the whole process cannot resume calmly.
Do you consider that the LFP was cautious with these American groups?
I do not think so. An American group, whatever it is, which answers a call for tenders and to which one says: “attention at the end of March, it is possible that it is necessary to start again from zero”, that makes think.
Has Ligue 1 been damaged by Mediapro, as Maxime Saada said?
I will not comment on his comments. I leave him free. But when I see the treatment we gave to L1 and L2, the feedback from 40 clubs, presidents, coaches or players, we did not damage anything at all. Canal + has not found a deteriorated championship. I have a lot of respect for the person of Maxime Saada. The difference between him and me is that I was club president. A big one in L1 (Marseille) and a big one in L2 (Nancy). I know what the nature of a relationship with a TV channel is when you’re at this position.
Is it complicated?
Of course. A season is not linear. I was lucky to be posted to OM. But I put myself in the shoes of the presidents of other clubs like Brest, Lorient, Bordeaux… I understand their annoyance at always seeing the same clubs exposed.
Do you agree with him that football must be reformed?
I share this analysis at least on one point. As has happened in other high-visibility sports, such as F1 for example, clubs need to better master the tool to promote their rights. If clubs encounter great difficulties today, it is partly due to the anticipation of figures that never arrived.
Should we go to 18 clubs to increase the competitiveness of L1?
It’s a sea serpent. I’ve heard this for 25 years. We would have damaged a championship where 4 clubs are fighting for the title after 24 days. How long has it not happened? The competition has never been so attractive. I don’t think a move from L1 to 18 clubs would have resulted in an even more exciting scenario.
What are you going to do now?
I will already await the decision of the commercial court on the subject of mutual agreement. But I don’t want to give up.
Do you have a form of moral debt towards the employees of Téléfoot?
I recruited them all, so obviously yes. Towards them I find myself with a feeling of responsibility. Almost against my will. They are all talented people, real beautiful people. Until the end, they were professional. It makes you want to get high for them. I am having a hard time and will have a hard time digesting this mess for a long time. I remain convinced that there was an alternative.
Without the Covid-19 epidemic, Téléfoot would continue to broadcast?
It is difficult to answer, but undoubtedly, yes. In part, the epidemic weighed in the premature end of the chain. I could not quantify it. The observation is that the Mediapro group was lacking, but we must realize what it represents in Spain: 6,000 to 7,000 people, nearly half of whom found themselves in the spring of 2020 in partial unemployment. Like all companies of this size, this group has been impacted by the health crisis.
Article original de: www.leparisien.fr