The French Ligue 1 might not be considered by many to be in the top three in European major leagues ranks. However, this top flight competition in French football league system can be considered one of the most competitive ones throughout the history. PSG might have been the dominant side in the past decade. However, they are not exactly the record title holder. St.Etienne, the struggling side in the relegation zone this season, in fact, is the club which has won the most titles with only ten times lifting the trophy. Such shall signify the intensity of the competition in general. Unfortunately, Ligue 1 is not exactly the place for the global stars. It is more well-known as the league for young talents from around the world, especially from African nations.
The league was founded in 1932 with the status as professional competition. Previously, the national club competition had already existed but only for amateur players from 1894 to 1919. It was first named as National but a year later, it was changed to Division 1 instead. That name remained the term for French top tier league until 2002. Since then, it has been renewed by allowing the sponsors to be tagged along its name. Three main sponsors have been given such rights so far. Currently, it is known as Ligue 1 Uber Eats. Previously, it was called Ligue 1 Conforama and Ligue 1 Orange. Despite going through several adjustments, its reputation as the first step for young talents to shine before moving to the tougher leagues such as English Premier League, Italian Serie A or La Liga remains the same.
France Ligue 1 Details
French Ligue 1 has been using the same common format as the ones in the major European league. It is a round robin format with home and away fixtures for the entire teams, except the inaugural one, which applied the combination of round robin and the knockout stage. The season starts in August with annual two-week recess for Christmas and New Years before resuming in the second week of January and ends in May.
In terms of the contestants, there has been expansion and then reduction throughout the years. At the beginning, 20 clubs were registered in the inaugural season in 1932/33. Yet, in the following season, only 14 clubs took part of the competition after six relegated teams did not get any replacement from the lower division. It went on till 1934/35 when two teams were added. The league of 16 clubs continued until 1938/39 season when World War II began. Despite the ongoing regional competition during 1939-1945 in some territories, the results were not officially recognised. The post World War II era marked the increasing clubs in the top tier to 18 and eventually another expansion in 1965/66 to 20 clubs until 2022/23. The contestants will be downgraded to 18 again in 2023/24 season due to the financial crisis and the TV broadcast contract debacle.
Before the arrival of Lionel Messi this season, Ligue 1 was on the verge of losing their viewers with only 1.207 million people in 2019/20. However, the Argentine megastar’s decision on joining Le Parisien could give a hope for the league to overturn the degrading trend of average audience on TV in the past few years. It was reported that Messi’s Ligue 1 debut had already attracted 6.7 millions viewers. Such could be a sign of improvement during the pandemic.
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Historic Moments in Ligue 1
The iconic moments in French top flight might not be well-recognised worldwide considering its low popularity around the globe. This competition is only ranked the sixth in UEFA coefficient 2021 under English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A and even Portuguese Premiera Liga.
The first historic moment in Ligue 1 was in early 1960s to mid 1970s when St.Etienne marked their domination. They won eight titles between 1963 and 1976, with twice consecutive wins, four times in a row from 1967 to 1970 and three times in a row within 1974 and 1976. Another iconic one was the golden years of Olympique Marseille in late 1980s to mid 1990s. They won four titles consecutively from 1989 to 1992. Unfortunately, OM’s domination eventually ended by their own management’s blunder as their former president Bernard Tapie was convicted of committing bribery and match fixing for 1992/93 domestic title. Such led to their instant downfall. At the same time, from 1993/94 season to 2000/01, Ligue 1 saw one of the most competitive and unpredictable period with different champions in each and every season. One of the notable winners was Nantes in 1994/95 season. Christian Karembeu and Co held the record of the league winner with the least defeat in French football history. Unfortunately, Olympique Lyon ended such trend by winning seven titles in a row from 2002 to 2008. Les Gones holds the record of winning the most consecutive titles until now, something which even the rich PSG has not been able to do so far.
The last few historic moments before Neymar and then Messi’s arrival in French’s top tier were in 2012, which was supposed to be the beginning of PSG’s initial golden years but they shockingly only finished second below Montpellier. The dark horse clinched their first ever league title with Olivier Giroud in the squad. The following seasons were all about Le Parisien’s domination with global stars signings from David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Neymar except in 2016/17 and 2020/21 seasons when Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco and Christopher Galtier’s Lille meddled the capital side’s expected continual domestic success.