Ligue 1 opener postponed after Marseille report four COVID-19 cases

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PARIS (Reuters) - Ligue 1’s opening match of the new season has been postponed from Friday night after Olympique de Marseille said they had confirmed four cases of COVID-19, French professional soccer’s governing body the LFP said on Tuesday.

“In view of medical results passed on by Olympique Marseille (...) the LFP has decided to postpone the Olympique de Marseille/AS Saint-Etienne game to Sept 16 or Sept 17”, the LFP said in statement.

The game was the only fixture set for Friday, with the rest of Ligue 1’s first round of 2020/21 matches spread out over Saturday and Sunday.

The LFP told clubs last week it had set up a “COVID committee” to advise on whether to postpone matches. When a club reports more than three coronavirus cases postponement is likely, based on the “COVID protocol” the LFP sent out to the clubs.

Among the “Big Five” European soccer nations, France was the only one to end its season prematurely due to the pandemic. Paris St Germain were awarded the Ligue 1 title.

The Parisian club and Olympique Lyonnais have reached the semi-finals of the reformatted Champions League, the first time that two French teams will compete at that level. Olympique Marseille is France’s only winner of the biggest prize in European football.

Almost 40 players from 11 Ligue 1 clubs out of 20 have tested positive for COVID-19, including some at Saint-Etienne.

Spain’s Mediapro, which holds the rights to air top Ligue 1 matches for the 2020/2021 to 2023/2024 seasons, agreed in early June with TF1, France’s biggest private TV operator, to form a new channel to air top Ligue 1 league matches in the country.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Benoit Van Overstraeten; editing by John Stonestreet and Hugh Lawson