France coach Laurent Blanc on Wednesday has called for the French football authorities to consider cutting the number of clubs in the country’s top division from 20 to 18.
Blanc believes a more streamlined national championship would reduce the burden on the players in his national squad.
“If we want to make national teams more legitimate again, we have to move towards a standardised calendar,” said Blanc in sports daily L’Equipe.
After a disastrous World Cup campaign, new coach Blanc wants to see the domestic calendar adjusted to prevent player fatigue.
“Taking into account the importance that the Champions League has acquired, only the national competitions enable you to free up some dates,” he added.
“So either we go back to 18 clubs in Ligue 1 or we scrap a cup.”
The French top division has fluctuated between 18 and 20 clubs since World War II and last made the move from 18 to 20 teams in 2002.
L’Equipe on Wednesday published a survey of 192 players, coaches and presidents from Ligue 1 clubs, with the majority speaking out against a reduction in the size of the championship.
Seventy percent of those surveyed said they did not want the league to be reduced to 18 clubs, with 20 percent undecided and only 10 percent in favour.
Nancy president Jacques Rousselot claimed supporters of the proposal were motivated only by a desire to increase their share of money generated by the sale of television rights.
“Those who advocate this think it’ll be more comfortable to cut the TV rights cake of 700 million euros into 18 pieces and not 20,” said Rousselot.
“They forget that we’re following an outmoded business model that needs to be reconsidered.”
A report compiled in April by France’s National Directorate of Management Control (DNCG) recommended a move to 18 clubs and a restriction of squad size to 23 players, L’Equipe reported.
Debts are mounting in French professional football, with the 40 clubs in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 believed to have accumulated an aggregate deficit of around 100 million euros this year.
The current TV rights deal, due to expire in 2012, will be renegotiated at the end of 2011 and the French football authorities are keen to ensure the league remains competitive.
“Along with the scrapping of the League Cup, the compression of the top flight is the other emergency exit to escape direct competition from other leagues and emerging sports,” read a L’Equipe editorial.
“Gentlemen who run French football, a bit of courage please. Dare to enact the return to 18. And quickly.”