Coronavirus could force Ligue 1 clubs into bankruptcy - Saint-Etienne chief

Many of France's professional clubs in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 will declare bankruptcy within six months if the coronavirus pandemic continues to halt football in the country, the president of Saint-Etienne's supervisory board, Bernard Caiazzo, has said.

Speaking with France Bleu Saint-Etienne Loire, Caiazzo said he fears for the future of his club and those in similar financial situations with the league officially shut down and a tentative restart date set for June 30.

"I am very, very, very worried for all the clubs," he said. "Without state aid, within six months, half of professional clubs will have to file for bankruptcy. The five major leagues have already lost €4 billion and the French league between €500m and €600m."

Fierce rivals Lyon were one of the first big French clubs to adopt the policy of partial unemployment, which sees the state fund a large proportion of the playing staff's salaries, with many since doing the same.

Caiazzo also said that such help only goes so far as it is capped at a maximum monthly wage of €6,000 -- below the salary of many established top-flight stars.

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"The difference between the general economy and football is the big wages," he added. "Partial unemployment is a €6,000 maximum. Not many players earn €6,000. Above that, it is the clubs who have to pay. At present, they have no revenue.

"Currently, all clubs are losing around €250m per month. We cannot play until the curve is reversed. So, July or August -- mid-June at best."

Caiazzo also warned that the coronavirus will have an impact on the summer transfer window.

"There will also be no transfer window," he said. "Our neighbours will not have the resources to buy players this summer. However, some Ligue 1 clubs are banking on sales by the end of June. Not to mention the €170m less in TV rights money, as well as a box office shortfall."

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas believes that continental and domestic cup football must be scrapped for the remainder of the season in order for the leagues to reach their respective conclusions.

"If we want to save Ligue 1, we must absolutely finish the season before June 30," he told RTL. "We must make decisions and be courageous. Forget about the Champions League, domestic cups and international matches. Concentrate solely on the league."