CORONAVIRUS CRISIS IN FRANCE: Lyon and Marseille are providing the entertainment off the pitch with a VERY bitter public spat while football takes a back seat… but how to end the season is set to cause a huge row
- As with the rest of Europe, France’s top flight has currently been suspended
- Talk has moved to how to finish the Ligue 1 season, or whether to abandon it
- Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has suggested starting afresh for 2020-21
- He wants the same clubs that qualified last season to be entered into Europe
- That suggestion has irked Marseille, who are currently second in the table
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
As France eases into full lockdown, football fans are being distracted from their everyday difficulties by a highly amusing – and faintly ridiculous – spat between two of the most high-profile figures in the French game.
Lyon’s president Jean-Michel Aulas and his Marseille counterpart Jacques-Henri Eyraud have been going at each other with relish ever since the former suggested on Saturday that the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season be cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Lyon may still be alive in this season’s Champions League, but they are languishing seventh in Ligue 1 and in danger of missing out on European qualification for the first time in 24 years. So when Aulas argued that the fairest solution would be to start afresh in 2020-21 with the same teams competing in Europe as this season, his bitter rival Eyraud accused him of egotism.
Lyon’s president Jean-Michel Aulas has been involved in a spat with his Marseille counterpart
Marseille’s Jacques-Henri Eyraud has scoffed at Aulas’s solutions to ending the league
‘Our football has its very own “Lider maximo”, ready to use a devastating virus to salvage his club’s difficult season,’ raged the Marseille chief in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper. ‘Lyon still have a joker card: Coronavirus.’
Eyraud continued with a series of metaphors that many deemed inappropriate. ‘Aulas has found the anti-defeat vaccine,’ he scoffed. ‘Let’s wash our hands well with the soap that destroys sporting results and equity.’
Marseille playmaker Dimitri Payet also attacked Aulas on social media. ‘Is this guy serious?’ he tweeted. ‘JMA has lost it, somebody take his temperature quick!’
Marseille did not qualify for Europe this season, but the cash-strapped club are second under Andre Villas-Boas and banking on Champions League qualification.
Marseille have enjoyed a strong season on the pitch and currently sit second in the table
While Lyon have impressed in Europe, they are in danger of missing out on qualification
Aulas duly referred to the Mediterranean side’s financial predicament when he launched a withering attack on Eyraud on Monday. As well as mocking his opposite number for bizarrely suggesting earlier this season that goals scored from outside the box should count more than goals scored from inside, Aulas threatened to take legal action against him.
‘Football’s never been your strong suit JH,’ Aulas tweeted. ‘After suggesting we give more points for goals scored from outside the box, and after losing €200m in three years rather than the €30m permitted by UEFA, you’re exposing yourself to defamation after twisting my words.’
Aulas later made another suggestion for determining European qualification: ‘The specialists say we could take a cumulative table from the past three or five seasons,’ he tweeted.’ Lyon, surprise, surprise, would be second such in both instances.
Nice’s president Jean-Pierre Rivere is trying to calm tensions. ‘I asked for people to behave responsibly, be united, and to stop making this type of comment,’ he told France Bleu Azur radio station. ‘We must find the best solution for our clubs and our fans.’
For the French League, who met on Tuesday, there is currently only one solution being envisaged: finishing the season on the pitch. ‘I won’t even think about (cancelling the season),’ French League president Nathalie Boy de la Tour told BeIN Sports. ‘I’m convinced we’ll get to the end of the championship.’
Nice’s president Jean Pierre Rivere (right) has attempted to calm tensions on the subject