Paris - France's leading football clubs lost the first round of a legal feud with the country's football federation (FFF) on Friday when a judge refused to endorse their breakaway move to cut the number of teams promoted to Ligue 1 every year.
Attempts to cut the number of teams rising to Ligue 1 from three to two have sparked a showdown with the French Football Federation which vetoed it, prompting the clubs' appeal for an emergency ruling in their favour.
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The judge said France's highest administrative court, the Conseil d'Etat, hoped to rule on the underlying issue before the current season ended and that in the meantime the system would remain unchanged at three promotions.
"I note the court decision with satisfaction. It shows that the matter of reform deserved wider discussion and consultation between all sides concerned," FFF President Noel Le Graet said in a statement.
The move by Ligue 1 sides has angered lower-level clubs and is regarded by many as an attempt to create something more akin to England's Premier League.
The judge's decision is more symbolic than anything else, given that the issue of promotion and relegation will come to a head only when the season ends next May.
The Professional Football League (LFP) said it was a shame that the question remained unresolved and it hoped the court would sort things out quickly.
"The sooner the better," it said in a statement.
The conflict has sown divisions in French football at the start of a season that precedes the 24-nation Euro 2016 which France will host next June and July.