Bureaucracy Round-Up – Winners and Luzenac
Following a summer that much of French football spent busy with tribunal hearings rather than transfer dealings, three lengthy administrative sagas look – look – to have been sorted out. We’d say ‘and not a moment too soon’ but things actually kicked off last week, causing something of a headache for Steve Wyss trying to get Ligue 2 previews together while not sure a) how many or b) which teams he actually needed to preview…
1) L’Affaire Lens
First up, having managed to convince CNOSF to OK their integration into Ligue 1, Lens have therefore managed to hang on to manager Antoine Koumbouare, but the DNCG is still digging its heels in after a promised €4m injection of cash from Hafiz Mammadov hasn’t shown up (this down from the original €10m that was the main bone of contention earlier in the summer) so the club is now under a transfer embargo, which has put something of a crimp on their plans.
Also, they don’t have a stadium right now, while the Stade Felix Bollaert-Delelis is done up in anticipation of Euro 2016, so they celebrated the opening day of the Ligue 1 season by reaching an agreement with SC Amiens to play 16 ‘home’ games at their 12,000 capacity Stade de la Licorne. The other three (the big-bank games against Lille, PSG and Marseille) will be at the Stade de France. Where they might play cup matches is TBC but we’re sure that will be sorted out well in advance of becoming a problem.
As an aside, the ongoing quibbles about Lens’ financial situation led to Sochaux putting out a communique demanding their reintegration into Ligue 1, despite the fact that at that point they had already played their first match in Ligue 2, a 1-0 loss at home to newly-promoted Orleans. Don’t ask, don’t get, we suppose.
So, this one looks done, if not particularly tidy.
2) OM at Home
After expressing shock and horror at the original €8m a year plus share of gate rent demanded for the spiffy new Velodrome, OM have reached an agreement with the city council for an initial three-year period, with a much lower fixed element (€3m this season then €4m for the next two) plus a 20% share in revenues over €20m a year. Calculations based on past results suggest this could top out in the region of €7.4m a year.
As the initial bullish refusal to pay the demanded rent, and subsequent agreement to play at least some matches at Mosson, was led by General Director Philippe Perez, whereas the new agreement has been handled (publicly at least) by owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus and club President Vincent Labrune, it looks a bit like OM have been playing ‘good cop, bad cop’ in negotiations.
The upshot seems to be that the city will need to find a very big name to come in for a sponsorship deal to cover an apparent shortfall against capital and running costs, and that this is all going to kick off again in three years when the current agreement comes to a close. Again, this will undoubtedly be sorted out well in advance.
But this one, at least for the club, for now, also seems sorted.
3) L’Affaire Luzenac
This one’s the kicker. After having their promotion to Ligue 2 blocked by the DNCG, and having that upheld by CNOSF, Luzenac managed to convince the Toulouse finance tribunal that their accounts were solid, sending the matter back to the DNCG – who gave the OK as well. However, despite all the wranglings about financial reliability, it was another crucial aspect that finally did for little Luzenac – a stadium. The DNCG is not in fact the last body a club has to convince – the league needs to be satisfied as well.
The refusal, in the event, was for ‘security reasons’ – the LFP’s Administrative Council finding that the proposed stadium solution, the 19,500 capacity Ernest-Wallon, home of Stade Toulousain rugby club, is not acceptable for league football.
Chateauroux were already guaranteed to stay up, given the protracted appeal process, and so there is some suspicion that the prospect of enlarging Ligue 2 to 21 teams and completely redoing the schedule was the real reason behind the refusal. LFP President Frederic Thiriez rejected this absolutely in an interview with L’Equipe, explaining that the stadium issue had been notified to the club months ago, and that “nothing has been done”. The UNFP backed this up, President Philippe Piat pointing out that the focus on the financial questions, on which the Tribunal and DNCG were finding, was separate from this other issue, which had been raised on numerous occasions with the club.
With Ligue 2’s average attendance last season less than 8,000 a match, there have been questions about why the Ernest-Wallon is not acceptable (when it has been used for a friendly for les Espoirs, amongst other things), and SC Bastia have come out swinging in the club’s defence with a biting communique about the inconsistent application of the rules, but both LFP and UNFP stress that Luzenac were given repeated notifications of the need for a stadium meeting football-specific security requirements, and time to find a solution.
A sad end to a long story? There may be another chapter to come. Luzenac appear to be in shock, the latest update on their website still (at time of writing – they have now added a thank you to SCB and other supporters) the ‘avis favorable de la DNCG‘ of Wednesday 7 August, and they have to work out what to do about the professional contracts signed by some players (which might be sustainable from an administrative point of view in National, but possibly not financially). However, President Jerome Ducros has said that the club will wait to see the full report of the LFP decision, probably on Monday, before deciding what to do next – it remains to be seen if the club holds to its original promise, “soit la ligue 2, soit la fin.”