Association football is the most popular sport in France, followed by rugby union. 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. 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 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 2006, the FFF had 2,143,688 licenses, with over 1,850,836 registered players and 18,194 registered clubs.
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." Modern football was introduced nine years later in 1872 by English sailors playing in Le Havre in 1872.
Ligue de Football Professionnel
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 overseeing, organizing, and managing the top two leagues and is also responsible for the 46 professional football clubs that contest football in France (20 in Ligue 1, 20 in Ligue 2, and 6 in the Championnat National).
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 20 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 their seventh title in 2018.
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.
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
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
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.
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