May you live in Adminteresting Times – Bureaucracy Round-Up
Lens‘ appeal to the DNCG over their promotion being blocked resulted in a less-than-positive decision on Tuesday, with the appeal body confirming that insufficient financial guarantees for the proposed budget have been given.
Initially the shortfall was explained as being due to a bank transfer being late due to a public holiday in Azerbaidjan, but President Gervais Martel later explained that there had in fact been two different problems; first sending it to the wrong bank, then messing up the IBAN. Whether he was referring to the initial bank transfer, or another one, is also not clear, as it seems that the money he was discussing has not actually been received; the ‘receipt’ referred to in initial reports could have been a bank guarantee, rather than a cash transfer, and it seems that the cash necessary to cover the proposed budget was split into several tranches.
Despite finishing second in Ligue 2 last season, therefore, Lens look to be staying put – which could mean that Sochaux have stayed up in Ligue 1 after all. However, this story is far from finished, given the number of stages there are in the appeal process, and Lens have confirmed that they will be appealing to CNOSF (Comité national olympique et sportif français).
Valenciennes will – we believe – be playing in Ligue 2 next season, after their desperate attempts to find financing sufficient to stave off bankruptcy paid off. The club’s appeal to the tribunal resulted in them coming out of receivership, which gave the green light for the DNCG to also reverse their decision to relegate the club for administrative reasons. Success in this affair has come at a price, however – President Jean-Raymond Legrand has stepped down to be replaced by Jean-Louis Borloo in an administrative role (the holding company of the club), and Luc Dayan in an operational capacity on a consulting contract for the next two months, both of whom helped to orchestrate the rescue package. As part of that, manager Ariel Jacobs has also stepped down, in mutual agreement to annul his contract (to June 2015) and therefore reduce the club’s wagebill.
Next season will remain a trial, however, as the financing will need to be consolidated, and various players have already left the club: Maor Melikson to Hapoël Beer Sheva, Matthieu Dossevi and Arthur Masuaku to Olympiakos, David Ducourtioux and Gregory Pujol to GFC Ajaccio, and Lindsay Rose to Lyon, as well as the significant number of loan players they relied on last season (Kagelmacher, Medjani, Doumbia, Bahebeck and Waris). That leaves a senior squad of 19 (at the moment), with more departures looking inevitable – however Dayan has told the press that there is room in the budget of €13.5m to recruit 6-8 new players to get the squad back to operational levels.
Chateauroux, who had been watching developments nervously after finishing 18th in Ligue 2 last season, may have been saved from relegation by yet another DNCG ruling, as Luzenac have failed to overturn the block on their promotion from National on appeal. This could mean the end for the smallest club to win promotion to the second tier, who say it’s “soit la ligue 2 … soit la fin” (“it’s Ligue 2 or the end”), but the wrangling may not be over yet, as Luzenac are also taking their case to CNOSF.
As we have said before, it is clearly important that the finances of French football are solid. However, the processes put in place to ensure that have created a near-farcical situation here where five clubs – Lens, Sochaux, Valenciennes, Chateauroux and Luzenac – could be playing in Ligue 2 when the season starts on 1 August, but do not know that for sure and therefore have to pack multiple levels of appeal before multiple bodies, both sporting and administrative, into a closed season in which they are also trying to keep hold of / sell / buy players, without a clear view of the context within which that is happening.
The President of Carquefou recently pointed out the problems inherent in having professional status stopping part-way down a division, rather than the clear league / non-league distinction in England, for example. Now LFP Frédéric Thiriez has weighed in (print version of L’Equipe only, as such full quote in French below, with our translation) to confirm that in an ordinary case, there are seven levels of jurisdiction:
« Cela crée des situations inextricables dans un temps judiciaire incompatible avec les contraintes d’organisation des compétitions. Bien sûr, le football n’est pas au-dessus des lois mais il est urgent de simplifier. J’en appelle à la création d’un véritable tribunal arbitral du sport. Cette juridiction spécialisée serait à même de juger les litiges rapidement, en tenant compte de la spécificité du sport. J’avais déjà fait cette proposition au gouvernement il y a plusieurs années, mais j’ai compris que ce n’était pas une priorité à l’époque. Aujourd’hui, une telle réforme, qui nécessite un texte législatif, est plus indispensable que jamais. »
“This creates complex situations in a judicial time-frame not compatible with the parameters of organising competitions. Of course, football is not above the law, but it is vital to simplify things. I am calling for the creation of a true arbitration tribunal for sport. Such a specialised body would be able to judge cases quickly, taking into account the specific nature of the sport. I had already proposed this to the government, some years ago, but understood that it was not a priority at that time. Today, a reform like that, requiring grounding in legislation, is more necessary than ever”
This situation, frankly, is a mess. They have a fortnight to sort this out. If a week is a long time in politics, it is next to no time for a football club – if the point of the DNCG rules is to make clubs more businesslike, it seems highly counter-productive to force them into a situation where they cannot be. As the Premier League is agog at the news of the biggest ever sponsorship deal in football, elsewhere there are clubs who can’t say for certain which league they will be playing in in two week’s time. This has to stop.
You may also have seen the sad news that AS Cannes are again in financial difficulties and trying to stave off administrative relegation. Our friends over at Get French Football News have taken up the cudgels this time, and you can find more information on their website and on Twitter.