Football in France

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Football in France
Governing bodyFFF
National team(s)France (men)France (women)
First played1863; 161 years ago (1863)
Registered players2.1 million[1]
National competitions
Club competitions
International competitions
France at the 1900 Summer Olympics.

Association football is the most popular sport in France.[2][3] The French Football Federation (FFF, Fédération Française de Football) is the national governing body and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of association football in the country, both professional and amateur.[4][5] The federation organizes the Coupe de France and is responsible for appointing the management of the men's, women's, and youth national football teams in France. The federation gives responsibility of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 to the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) who oversee, organize, and manage the country's top two leagues. The LFP is also responsible for organizing the Coupe de la Ligue, the country's league cup competition. The French Football Federation also supervises the overseas departments and territories leagues and hosts football club AS Monaco, a club based in the independent sovereign state of Monaco. In 2022, the FFF had 2.1 million licensees, 1.8 million players and 14,000 registered clubs, the second highest number of registered players in Europe after Germany.[1]

The first football club was introduced to France in 1863 as described in a newspaper article by The Scotsman, which stated "A number of English gentlemen living in Paris have lately organised a football club... The football contests take place in the Bois de Boulogne, by permission of the authorities and surprise the French amazingly."[6] Modern football was introduced nine years later in 1872 by English sailors playing in Le Havre in 1872.[7]

Today, football in France is especially being played successfully by people of non-European origin, in particular people of Subsaharan origin and people from North Africa who are overrepresented in the Banlieue.[8] The importance of players of non-European origin is also reflected in the composition of the French World Cup winning team where only six of the 23 players were of European descent.[9]

France is a football superpower; by its footballers playing around the world, according to the CIES Football Observatory, in 2023, France is the second country in the world behind Brazil, with the most footballers playing abroad with 1,033.[10] According to Statista, of the estimated 130,000 professional football players worldwide, 6,368 originated from France, the third highest number in the world after Brazil (10,694) and Mexico (9,223).[11]

League system[edit]

Ligue de Football Professionnel[edit]

The Stade Vélodrome, home of Olympique de Marseille, before a match against Paris Saint-Germain in 2015.

The top two divisions of French football, Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, are governed by the Ligue de Football Professionnel. The league is responsible for organizing, overseeing and managing the top two leagues and is also responsible for the 38 professional football clubs that contest football in France (18 in Ligue 1 and 20 in Ligue 2).[12][13][14]

Ligue 1 is the French professional league for football clubs. It is the country's primary football competition and serves as the top division of the French football league system. Contested by 18 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with Ligue 2. Ligue 1 is one of the top national leagues, currently ranked fifth in Europe behind the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and the German Bundesliga. Ligue 1 was inaugurated on 11 September 1932 under the name National before switching to Division 1 after a year of existence. The name lasted until 2002 before switching to its current name. The current champions of France are Paris Saint-Germain, who won a record twelfth title in 2024.

Ligue 2 is the second division of French football. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Championnat National. The league was created in 1934, a year after Ligue 1 and consisted of 23 clubs that were divided into two groups, Nord and Sud.

Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain ranked fourth place in the top ten most popular sports clubs on social media in the world as of 7 February 2024:[15]

Rank Football club Country Followers
1 Real Madrid Spain 360.5 million
2 Barcelona Spain 318.8 million
3 Manchester United England 207 million
4 Paris Saint-Germain France 163 million
5 Juventus Italy 147.4 million
6 Manchester City England 139.7 million
7 Chelsea England 136.7 million
8 Liverpool England 131.6 million
9 Bayern Munich Germany 126.5 million
10 Arsenal England 99.2 million

Championnat National[edit]

The Championnat National is the third division of French football. Though the league has several clubs that are members of the Ligue de Football Professionnel, it is not governed by the organization primarily because of the LFP's refusal to divide its profits into smaller shares, so they can collaborate with the many amateur clubs in the league to help them become professional. The French Football Federation moderates the league, which was founded in 1993 under the name National 1. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Championnat de France amateur.

Championnat National 2[edit]

The Championnat National 2 is the fourth division of French football and normally features 72 football clubs. Most clubs that participate in the league are amateur clubs, but a small number of clubs are semi-professional. The CFA consists of 72 clubs spread into 4 parallel groups of 18. It is open to the best reserve teams in France and amateur clubs in France, although only the amateur clubs are eligible for promotion to the Championnat National. The highest-placed amateur team in each pool are promoted, replaced by the 4 lowest-placed in the Championnat National.

Championnat National 3[edit]

The Championnat National 3 is the 5th division in French football and normally consists of 168 teams in 12 groups of 14 organised to align with the regional leagues. The twelve teams (both amateur and reserves of professional teams in higher divisions) that top their league are promoted to Championnat National 2. Relegation from Championnat National 3 is defined by both position in the group and the region the club belongs to. Normally, one club is relegated to each regional league that feeds that group.

Lower divisions[edit]

Some of regional leagues are organised and managed by the Ligue du Football Amateur. The LFA, under the watch of the French Football Federation, is responsible for administering and federating the actions of the regional and district leagues.

Women's football[edit]

Division 1 Féminine[edit]

Division 1 Féminine is the top league for women's football clubs in France. Division 1 Féminine is ranked the best league in Europe according to UEFA. The league was originally created in 1918 by Alice Milliat and ran for 12 successful seasons until women's football was banned in France. The league was refounded in 1974 and officially reinstated in 1975.

It is contested by 12 clubs. The league operates on a system of promotion and relegation with lower leagues and is governed by the French Football Federation. The league is known as D1 Arkema. Lyon has won the most league titles at 16.

Lower divisions[edit]

Division 2 Féminine is the second-tier of French women's football, contested by 12 clubs. Relegation is to Division 3 Féminine, contested by 24 fully professional clubs split into two groups. The fourth level is Régional 1 Féminine.

Overseas leagues[edit]

The leagues based in the overseas departments and territories of France are run by their respective associations under the watch of the French Football Federation. Under the rules of the FFF, clubs in the leagues are allowed to participate in confederation competitions based on their regional locations. For example, the champion of the Réunion Premier League is allowed inclusion into the CAF Champions League.

Cup competitions[edit]

Coupe de la Ligue trophy.

The most important cup competition in France is the Coupe de France. However, several other national cups are targeted at clubs at different levels.

  • The Coupe de France is the premier knockout cup competition in French football. It is open to all amateur and professional football clubs in France, including clubs based in the overseas departments and territories. The final is played at the Stade de France and, during the 2016–17 season, celebrated its 100th anniversary.
  • The Coupe de la Ligue was the second major cup competition in France. It was known outside France as the French League Cup and was a knockout league cup competition organised by the Ligue de Football Professionnel. Unlike the Coupe de France, it was only open to professional clubs who were members of the LFP. The competition was discontinued in 2020 to prevent fixture congestion.
  • The Trophée des Champions is played each July as a one-off match between the Coupe de France winners and the Ligue 1 champions.
  • Regional amateur leagues of France organise their own cup competitions that are run by the French Football Federation. For example, the Coupe Bourgogne only features amateur clubs that are based in the region of Burgundy.
  • Men's youth cups include the Coupe Gambardella, Coupe Nationale, and the Coupe Fédérale. The Coupe Gambardella cup competition held between the under-19s of the French football clubs. The Coupe Nationale holds dual competitions for the under-13 and under-15 teams of football clubs, while the Coupe Fédérale holds a national cup competition for under-16 teams.
  • The Coupe de l'Outre-Mer is a football cup competition that was created in 2008. It was designed to have the national football teams of the overseas territories compete against each other


  • The Coupe de France féminine, a premier cup competition reserved exclusively for French football clubs. The competition is open to all professional and non-professional teams in the country.
  • Trophée des Championnes, an annual match between the league champions of Division 1 and the winners of the Coupe de France. The league runners-up play if the same team won the league and the cup.
  • Coupe Nationale
  • Coupe Fédérale
  • The Coupe National holds a youth cup competition for the under-14 teams, while the Coupe Fédérale holds cup competitions for the under-13 and under-16 teams.

Competition records[edit]

UEFA Champions League[edit]

The following teams have qualified for the last eight of the European Cup / UEFA Champions League.

UEFA Women's Champions League[edit]

National teams[edit]

Zinedine Zidane, member of the national team from 1994 to 2006.

The France national football team represents France in international football.[16] France was one of the four European teams that participated at the inaugural World Cup in 1930 and are one of eight national teams to have won the competition, which they did in 1998 when they hosted the Cup, defeating Brazil 3–0 in the final. They won their second world title 20 years later, after defeating Croatia 4–2 in the final of the 2018 edition in Russia. France also won two European Championships in 1984 and 2000, and hosted the tournament on three occasions, including their victorious 1984 campaign. Following France's 2001 Confederations Cup victory, they became the first national team to win the three most important men's titles organised by FIFA: the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Confederations Cup, and the Olympic Tournament. This would be followed with Argentina and Brazil's victories at the Summer Olympics in 2004 and 2016. France additionally went on to win a UEFA Nations League title in 2021.

Eugénie Le Sommer, member of the national team since 2009.

The France women's national football team represents the country in international women's football. France initially struggled on the international stage failing to qualify for three of the first FIFA Women's World Cups and the six straight UEFA European Championships before reaching the quarter-finals in the 1997 edition of the competition. However, since the beginning of the new millennium, France have become a mid-tier national team and one of the most consistent in Europe, having qualified for their first-ever FIFA Women's World Cup in 2003 and reaching the quarter-finals in the last three consecutive European Championships. They also hosted the 2019 Women's World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals.

The France national youth football teams consists of age-specific national teams beginning with the France national under-16 football team and ending with the France national under-21 football team. Since the coaching tenure of Aimé Jacquet, there is an unwritten rule among senior national team coaches that players called up to the national team must have had prior international experience with the under-21 team.

Overseas departments national teams[edit]

The following overseas department national teams act as feeder teams for the France national football team. All teams are run by their respective federation under the authority of the French Football Federation.

National team Elo Ranking Manager Stadium Member Association(s)
French Guiana 159 France Ghislain Zulémaro Stade de Baduel CONCACAF and CFU
Guadeloupe 91 France Roger Salnot Stade René Serge Nabajoth CONCACAF and CFU
Martinique 115 France Theodore Antonin Stade d'Honneur de Dillon CONCACAF and CFU
Réunion 138 TBD Stade Jean-Ivoula CAF
Saint Martin 193 France Andy Gerard TBD CONCACAF and CFU
Lilian Thuram, from Guadeloupe, is the nation's second-most capped male football player.

As an overseas department of the French Republic, each national team is not a member of FIFA, therefore they are not eligible to enter the World Cup. However, since inhabitants of the overseas departments are French citizens, players are eligible to play for the France national football team. Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin, and French Guiana are associate members of CONCACAF and are full members of the Caribbean Football Union, and are thus eligible for all competitions organized by both, while Réunion are associate members of CAF. Indeed, according to the status of the FFF (article 34, paragraph 6): "[...]Under the control of related continental confederations, and with the agreement of the FFF, those leagues can organize international sport events at a regional level or set up teams in order to participate to them."

A special rule of the CONCACAF Gold Cup only allows players to join the team if they have not played for France during the previous five years. On the other hand, any player joining the team is allowed to join the France national team afterward with no time restrictions.

The use of overseas department players has been extremely beneficial for the France national team. Lilian Thuram and Bernard Lama, who were born in Guadeloupe and Martinique, respectively, were a part of the winning team at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Also on the team were Thierry Henry and Bernard Diomède, who, though born in metropolitan France, were descendants of parents from overseas departments. Currently, Florent Malouda (French Guiana), William Gallas, Mikaël Silvestre, Michaël Ciani (Guadeloupe), Nicolas Anelka (Martinique), and Guillaume Hoarau and Florent Sinama Pongolle (Réunion) are members of the national team who either hail from or whose families hail from the overseas departments.

French football stadiums[edit]

Stadiums with a capacity of 40,000 or higher are included.

# Image Stadium Capacity City Region Home Team Opened Notes
1 Stade de France 81,338 Saint-Denis Île-de-France France national football team 1998 UEFA Category 4 stadium
2 Stade Vélodrome 67,394 Marseille Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Olympique de Marseille 1937 UEFA Category 4 stadium
3 Parc Olympique Lyonnais 59,186 Décines-Charpieu Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Olympique Lyonnais 2016 UEFA Category 4 stadium
4 Stade Pierre-Mauroy 50,157 Villeneuve-d'Ascq Hauts-de-France Lille OSC 2012 UEFA Category 4 stadium
5 Parc des Princes 48,583 Paris Île-de-France Paris Saint-Germain FC 1972 UEFA Category 4 stadium
6 Matmut Atlantique 42,115 Bordeaux Nouvelle-Aquitaine FC Girondins de Bordeaux 2015 UEFA Category 4 stadium
7 Stade Geoffroy-Guichard 41,965 Saint-Étienne Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes AS Saint-Étienne 1931

List of club owners[edit]

Ligue 1[edit]

Club Owner(s) Estimated combined net worth Source of wealth
Brest France Denis Le Saint Fruits and Vegetables
Clermont Switzerland Ahmet Schaefer
Le Havre United States Vincent Volpe
Lens France Joseph Oughourlian
United States Amber Capital
Lille Luxembourg Merlyn Partners Investments
Lorient France Loïc Ferry
United States Bill Foley
300 M€ Investments
Lyon United States Eagle Football Holdings LLC
United States John Textor
Marseille United States Frank McCourt 1,2 Mds$ Sport investments
Metz France Bernard Serin Steel Products
Monaco Russia Dmitry Rybolovlev 7,4 Mds$ Specialized chemicals, investments
Montpellier France Laurent Nicollin 150 M€ Waste management
Nantes PolandFrance Waldemar Kita 170 M€ Optical
Nice England Jim Ratcliffe Chemical industries
Paris Qatar Qatar Sports Investments
United States Arctos Partners
9.0 B$[citation needed] Gas & oil
Reims France Jean-Pierre Caillot Transport
Rennes France Francois Pinault 23 Mds€ Luxury
Strasbourg United States Clearlake Capital Group
Toulouse United States RedBird Capital Partners Investments

Ligue 2[edit]

Club Owner(s) Estimated combined net worth Source of wealth
Ajaccio France Alain Orsoni
Amiens France Bernard Joannin Retail
Angers France Saïd Chabane
Annecy France Sebastien Faraglia
Auxerre China James Zhou
Bastia France Familles Luiggi et Ferrandi
Bordeaux Luxembourg Spain Gérard Lopez Investments
Caen United States Oaktree Capital Investments
Dunkerque Turkey Amissos / Yildirim
Grenoble France Stéphane Rosnoblet Supermarket
Guingamp France Noël Le Graët
Laval France Laurent Lairy
Paris FC France Pierre Ferracci
Bahrain Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company
Sri Lanka Allirajah Subaskaran
Armenia Noah Football Group
Pau France Bernard Laporte-Fray
Quevilly France Michel Mallet
Rodez France Pierre Olivier Murat
Saint-Étienne France Roland Romeyer
France Bernard Caïzzo
Troyes United Arab Emirates City Football Group Sport investments
Valenciennes England Sport Republic


Club Owner(s) Estimated combined net worth Source of wealth
Chateauroux United Arab Emirates United World Group
United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Mossad
Sport Investments
Dijon France Olivier Delcourt
Le Mans France Thierry Gomez
Nancy United States Chien Lee Sport Investments
Nîmes France Rani Assaf Telecommunications
Niort France Ethan Hanouna
Red Star United States 777 Partners
Sedan France
Rouen France
Sochaux France Romain Peugeot
Versailles France Alexandre Mulliez

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Le budget et les chiffres clés". French Football Federation. Archived from the original on 9 June 2022. Retrieved 22 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)(the last successful archive is 2021 statistics: 1.9 million licensees, 1.8 million players and 15,000 clubs.)
  2. ^ "Popular sports in France". Archived from the original on 22 October 2021. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  3. ^ "Sport in France". Topend Sports. Archived from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  4. ^ "A French paradox: multicultural celebrities are popular, but so is Le Pen". The Independent. January 2012. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  5. ^ "France's Aversion To Its National Soccer Team". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 10 January 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  6. ^ The Scotsman newspaper, 22 December 1863, page 8
  7. ^ "History of Football". Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  8. ^ "La place du sport dans les quartiers populaires". Impulsion. Archived from the original on 24 October 2023. Retrieved 14 October 2023.
  9. ^ "Who Wins When France Claims the World Cup?". The Athletic. Archived from the original on 24 October 2023. Retrieved 14 October 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ "Brazil breaks ranking record of exported players. France rank second, England fourth". 26 September 2023. Archived from the original on 2 December 2023. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  11. ^ "Number of men's professional soccer players worldwide in 2021, by country of origin". 26 September 2023. Archived from the original on 23 September 2023. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  12. ^ "In France Paris St. Germain Is A League Apart". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  13. ^ Inti Landauro and William Horobin (25 October 2013). "Top French Soccer Clubs Call Tax Strike". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  14. ^ WSC Daily. "When Saturday Comes – Victory for French fans over TV scheduling". Archived from the original on 22 July 2018. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "France's Aversion To Its National Soccer Team". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 10 January 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2014.

External links[edit]