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League One, League Two over; France cancel relegation

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There has been some clarification in leagues across Europe as both League One and League Two in England have voted to end their 2019-20 season, while relegation has been canceled in the top two tiers of France, as leagues sort out issues amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Focusing on England first, the remaining games in League One and League Two have both been canceled as clubs voted to use a points-per-game system to determine the final table. Per a statement, the English Football League (EFL) said clubs “voted by an overwhelming majority to formally end” the 2019-20 season.

The meeting of the EFL clubs also decided that playoffs in the third and fourth tiers will take place, with promotion and relegation staying in place.

In League One, Coventry City are the champions and will be promoted alongside Rotherham United, while Oxford United will play Portsmouth and Wycombe Wanderers will play Fleetwood Town in the playoffs for a place in the Championship. Peterborough dropped out of the playoffs due to the points-per-game system used. Tranmere Rovers, Southend United and Bolton Wanderers will be relegated to League Two.

In League Two, Swindon Town have been named champions with Crewe Alexandra and Plymouth Argyle also promoted automatically. Cheltenham will play Northampton and Exeter will play Colchester for a place in the playoff final at Wembley, with the first legs on June 18 and the second legs on June 22. The League Two playoff final will be played at an empty Wembley Stadium on June 29.

Relegation from League Two has yet to be confirmed as Stevenage Town sit bottom of the table, but are three points from safety and the team above them, Macclesfield Town, are currently under investigation for misconduct when it comes to not paying players and they could receive a further points deduction which could move them into the relegation zone. The EFL have said that “due to ongoing disciplinary matters, the final placings cannot yet be confirmed” in League Two.

In France, a legal battle to try and restart the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 campaigns was quashed but the highest court in France has agreed that relegation from the top two tiers should be canceled, for now.

That means Amiens and Toulouse will not be relegated to Ligue 2 and now the governing body of the French league will have to decide if promotion to Ligue 1 or Ligue 2 will be halted or if both leagues will be larger for the 2020-21 season.

France’s top two divisions were ended in April as a points-per-game system was used to determine the final table as Paris Saint-Germain were awarded the Ligue 1 title. Lyon led a host of clubs who fought the decision and wanted the 2019-20 season to restart, but the original decision will stand as the French government had banned sporting events, even in empty stadiums, until September 1 at the earliest.

Ligue 1 season canceled; France bans sporting events

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The Ligue 1 season is over as the prime minister of France, Edouard Philippe, banned all sporting events until September.

The order includes sporting events behind closed doors and follows a similar ban put in place until September by the Netherlands. That led to the Eredivise season being canceled and deemed null and void.

“Big sporting events will not be able to take place before September. The 2019-20 season, notably for football, will not be able to resume,” Philippe said. 

So, the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons have now been canceled and the French top-flight is the first of Europe’s top five leagues to call an end to the 2019-20 season.

It has not yet be decided if Paris Saint-Germain will be handed the French title or what will happen to teams in the European qualification and relegation spots, as the league is expected to meet in May to decide the final standings.

PSG are currently top of the 2019-20 Ligue 1 table with a 12-point lead, while Marseille and Rennes sit in the Champions League spots, while Lille, Reims and Nice make up the rest of the top six. Toulouse are rock bottom of the table but could avoid relegation, depending on how the league decides to end the season.

In Ligue 2 there is an almighty battle for promotion to the top-flight with the top five teams separated by just four points with Lorient, Lens, Ajaccio, Troyes and Clermont all in the hunt for promotion.

PSG and Lyon are still in the UEFA Champions League and at the moment UEFA intend to complete that competition in August. How that would be possible with France not allowing sporting events behind closed doors until September remains to be seen but it suggests that the latter stages of the UCL would have to take place in one location.

Football in France is done for 2019-20.

French second-division game halted over homophobic chanting

Photo credit should read JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images
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Following the guidelines of a new rule set forth by FIFA, the Ligue 2 game between Nancy and Le Mans was stopped by referee Mehdi Mokhtari due to homophobic chanting by fans on Friday.

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Prior to stopping the game, a request made over the stadium’s public-address system was unsuccessful in silencing the abuse. Players also appealed for fans to stop singing the Song in question.

The game was resumed following the brief stoppage, which was described by Eurosport as lasting “about a minute.”

French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu applauded Mokhtari and fellow associates responsible for their decision and actions taken:

“I congratulate the referee Mehdi Mokhtari and the delegate of [Ligue de Football Professionnel] Alain Marseille who took their responsibilities and decided to interrupt the football match between Nancy and Le Mans for homophobic insults. It’s a first. And last one, I hope”

Marlene Schiappa, Secretary of State for Equality between Women and Men, echoed the same sentiments:

“Congratulations to referee Mehdi Mokhtari for having bravely interrupted the match against homophobic songs sung at Nancy-Le Mans as allowed by the rules. Football is an exciting sport. It must remain so for all.”

Le Havre teenager Diop dies

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Le Havre are mourning the loss of a teenager player who died on Friday.

The second-tier French club said that 18-year-old defender Samba Diop died of unknown causes.

Diop, 18, played for Le Havre’s reserve team who compete in the fourth-tier of French soccer.

The teenager was from the city of Le Havre and in a statement the club said the following.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our player Samba Diop. This is an extremely difficult time for all of us. The entire HAC club extends its deepest condolences to the Samba family.”

Le Havre’s Ligue 2 game against Reims on Saturday has been postponed and the French league have said a “moment of silence” will be held before games across the top two tiers of French soccer on Saturday.

18yo player with French 2nd division side Tours has died

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TOURS, France (AP) An 18-year-old soccer player with French second-division club Tours has died.

Midfielder Thomas Rodriguez died overnight from Thursday to Friday, the club said in a statement. No details were given as to the cause of death.

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“Tours FC is devastated by this drama, which plunges the club into an immense sadness ,” Tours said.

Rodriguez joined in 2016 and progressed through the Tours youth academy before playing for the reserves.

“His footballing qualities, his drive and his motivation made him a player promised a bright future as a professional,” Tours said. “The club offers its most sincere condolences to his family, his loved ones, and all the teammates and friends of Thomas.”

The French soccer league canceled the Tours-Valenciennes match scheduled for later Friday. A minute’s silence will be held at all stadiums in the first division and second division this weekend.

Rodriguez’s death comes after Fiorentina captain Davide Astori was found dead in his hotel room on Sunday after a suspected cardiac arrest before an Italian match at Udinese.

In January 2009, 23-year-old Clement Pinault, a defender with Clermont in the French second division, died in hospital four days after suffering a heart attack at home.