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For Mediapro and French Soccer, a Crisis With Many Fathers

Roures, in an interview with The New York Times shortly before his audience with lawmakers, doubled down on his belief that his plan would have worked had the pandemic not changed everything. For it to work, though, Mediapro’s new channel, Telefoot, would have needed to attract three million subscribers, far more than the reported 300,000 it had managed to lure by the time of its collapse.

Looking back at how things unfolded, Roures says now, it was the French league that erred in not renegotiating with him. He contends that his new offer — about 580 million euros, or about $675 million — was double the amount the league managed to extract from Amazon; that the government’s failure to tackle piracy also contributed to Mediapro’s hasty exit; and that Canal Plus, France’s top pay-TV operator, tried to abuse its dominant position.

That stance may explain why he was unable to negotiate his contract with the league in the fall of 2020. Roures, said a team owner who also sits on the French league’s board, “lost all credibility, and no one wanted to hear about him.”

A spokesman for the league did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Roures, who rose to prominence at the turn of the century when he secured domestic rights to the Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, lamented the price he had paid. “There has been significant reputational damage for us,” he said in the interview from Mediapro’s headquarters in Barcelona, Spain.

Asked if any part of his foray into French soccer kept him up at night, he said no: “I sleep like a baby.”

While in his interview Roures attempted to provide various explanations for what happened, he declined to point fingers directly at France’s clubs or its league. But he suggested his new view from the sideline offered him a glimpse of the structural problem that he suggested could leave the French league perpetually in the shadow of its rivals: Teams there, Roures said, are far too reliant on player trading to balance their books.