Amiens, Toulouse avoid relegation as French court confirms Ligue 1 end

PARIS (Reuters) - Amiens and Toulouse were given a lifeline on Tuesday when France’s top administrative court suspended their relegation from the Ligue 1 soccer championship, although it upheld the curtailment of the season amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The LFP ended the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons in April with 10 games remaining after the government said no professional sport would be allowed to return before September.

That meant seventh-placed Olympique Lyonnais, a point off the Europa League qualifying spot, missed out on European football through the standings. It also meant Amiens and Toulouse, who were adrift at the bottom, were relegated.

All three clubs appealed the decision to end the season.

“The judge validates the terms defined by the league, in particular for the classification of the Ligue 1 championship,” the State Council said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The judge in summary proceedings suspends relegation to Ligue 2 of Amiens and Toulouse,” it added.

Given that Lorient and Lens have been promoted from Ligue 2, the State Council also ordered the LFP to review its championship format for next season. That could ultimately lead to a 22-team league for the 2020-21 campaign.

Annual broadcasting rights for France’s top soccer league have now crossed above 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), underscoring the importance for teams to avoid the financial consequences of relegation.

The decision by the LFP to cut short the season has come under growing criticism, especially after the other main European leagues in Germany, Spain, England and Italy have either resumed or are set to restart.

Since the April decision, the government has given the green light for French cup final matches to be played before September without fans in attendance, while the 2020-21 season is due to begin on Aug. 22. Training for teams has also now resumed.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Alex Richardson/Christian Radnedge/Ken Ferris