French minister criticises football, calls for season to end

French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu on Thursday called for the French league to end the Ligue 1 season and hit out at football clubs and players for a "lack of empathy" during the coronavirus pandemic.

The league will hold a teleconference on Thursday to discuss what to do next, after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said this week the "2019-20 professional sports leagues, notably football, cannot restart".

"A decision has to be made," Maracineanu told radio station RTL.

"The signal that the prime minister gave was clear and simple. We expect sporting bodies to assume their responsibilities as we do."

One leading club president, Lyon's Jean-Michel Aulas, has said he does not believe the season is necessarily dead and has even suggested a series of play-offs to decide relegation and European places, but the minister does not want that to happen.

"Resuming this season in August would go against what the prime minister and the government have proposed," Maracineanu, a former Olympic swimmer, said.

Maracineanu also criticised professional sport in France, and football in particular, for its response to the coronavirus crisis.

"At every level, everyone must be united," she said. "In professional sport, this isn't what we saw from the start.

"We saw TV broadcasters who said 'No, we will not give money owed for matches already played', we saw club executives who put their own interests first and we saw players who did not seem to care too much about their business, or about all the people who work around them so that sport lives and survives.

"You need empathy, you have to look at the person next to you. We have not really seen that from professional football."

Players and clubs in the top two French divisions reached a non-binding agreement this month over a "temporary" pay cut to try and help save jobs for other staff.

A study by global players' union FIFPro has warned of a sharp rise in the number of footballers reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression since the game was suspended worldwide.

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