Ligue 1 is France’s top men’s professional club league which provides fans with some of the best French football on tv and in the stadiums. Apart from being extremely popular at home, Ligue 1 also enjoys a strong following overseas. This is also owing to an increasing number of international players, with many hailing from the country’s past colonies.
Ligue 1 is relatively young when compared to similar tournaments held in neighbouring states. Professional male football was only created in 1930, with the first Ligue 1 taking place two years later. Even then, due to the rules governing entry into the championship, many teams chose not to participate.
Many, especially in the north of the country, such as Strasbourg and Amiens, declined to become professional for a variety of reasons, including the fear of going bankrupt.
Eventually, the tournament, which at the time was called National, made headway, with a total of 20 teams split into two groups. The winners of each group would go on to face each other in the final. In May 1933, the first final took place and saw Olympique Lillois raise the trophy for the first time. They beat Cannes, which, however, was not the winner of its group.
Antibes was the winner of that group, but amidst bribery charges, it was disqualified. This instance and continuing conflicts between the tournament organisers and certain club owners gave Ligue 1 an unusually rocky start.
Not much has changed in the format of the league in its 87 years of existence. 20 clubs still participate in the competition which runs from August to May. Each club meets every other team twice, with one game normally played at home and one away.
The points are awarded to the winning team of each match and one point is given to both teams on a draw. The winner is the team which has the highest number of points at the end of the season. If there is a tie, the team with the largest goal difference wins. In the case that here too there is a tie, then the team with most goals scored wins.
Ligue 1 allows play-off matches to determine the team or teams which will be relegated or be sent to a European championship. Winners and runners-up of Ligue 1 can go on to play in the Champions League and Europa Leauge. Relegated teams, meanwhile, play in Ligue 2 in the following season.
Fans who have been watching Ligue 1 on TV for a couple of decades would know that the latest relegation and promotion rules have only come into force since 1995.
Clubs and Stadiums
So far, 76 different clubs have participated in Ligue 1, with only four of the original teams having played in every single season. These teams are Nice, Montpellier, Marseille, and Rennes. Interestingly, one of the tournament’s biggest clubs, Paris Saint-Germain, did not make it to the major league until the 1974-1975 season. This is because of its split with Paris FC in 1972 which automatically relegated it. Following its rise to the top-tier, it has never been relegated again.
If you watch Ligue 1 on TV, you might catch a surprising team playing. Monaco, in fact, whilst not part of France, sends one club to compete in this tournament every year.
Most of the major French clubs have some truly stunning and massive stadiums. The biggest by capacity is the Stade Velodrome, which belongs to the Olympique de Marseille and can hold upwards of 67,000 cheering fans. It is followed closely by Olympique Lyonnais’ Parc Olympique Lyonnais which can accommodate 59,186 attendees.
Notable Records and Stats
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the record for the highest stadium attendance during a Ligue 1 match was in the Stade Velodrome. An estimated 62,252 seats were taken during the 2017 game between Marseille and PSG. Nevertheless, this number is just a drop in the ocean compared to the millions who decided to watch live football on tv instead.
Saint-Étienne holds the record for winning the competition the most times. It has 10 titles, with the latest win taking place during the 1980-1981 season. Marseille is next with nine victories, the latest happening in the 2009-2010 season. Outsiders Monaco have won the title eight times, as have Nantes, and current winners Paris Saint-Germain.
Paris Saint-Germain holds the record for most wins in one season, with 30 victories. The team also holds the record for most away wins in a season, with 15. At 28, Saint-Étienne holds the record for most consecutive victories, and the team also has the record for most home victories in a season, a total of 19.
Players and Top Scorers
Many of the players of Ligue 1 have become international stardom thanks to their stellar performance and the fact that many people can watch live football on TV today. Mickaël Landreau is a much-loved player who has played with several teams, including Lille and Paris Saint-Germain. As a result, he has accumulated the highest number of appearances in Ligue 1, a total of 618.
The prestige of highest top scorer in Ligue 1 does not, in fact, go to a Frenchman. Instead, it belongs to Argentinian Delio Onnis, who scored 299 goals in 15 years. Coming in second is Delio Onnis with 255 goals in 497 games. The player with the record highest goal ration is Argentinian Carlos Bianchi. In 10 years, Bianchi played 220 games and scored 179 goals.
In a single season, Croatian Josip Skoblar scored the most goals, at 44. In a single match, the record for most goals scored is held between two players. Rouen’s Jean Nicolas and Sochaux’s André Abegglen both scored seven goals respectively, just three years apart.
With the country performing so well in several editions of the World Cup, it’s not surprising that more and more people tune in to watch French football on TV. You can get all the latest live football on TV fixtures, including highlights and statistics from a variety of sources, including Freeview, pay tv and the Internet.