DNCG Strike Again As SC Bastia Face Ridiculous Relegation to Ligue 2

SCB fence

While most football sites are currently focussing on the transfer window and various international tournaments going on, French football has another traditional subject to factor in – admin. Every summer, the DNCG (Direction Nationale du Controle de Gestion – responsible for oversight of rules, budgets, etc) gets through a frankly ludicrous amount of bureaucratic to-ing and fro-ing, which can also involve appeals, magistrates courts, the Olympic Committe, local politicians, et une perdrix dans un poirier.

Some of this is regular, throughout-the-season stuff, such as hitting St Etienne with what looks like two consecutive €55k fines for usage d’engins pyrotechniques (flares) in the last two games of the season, away at Evian and at home to Guingamp – also a (suspended) closure of bits of their home stadium. And Bordeaux for €50k for similar at home to Nantes in game 36. There’s also a sliding scale of penalties for 11 players and 21 trainers who didn’t read the rules on betting on matches properly.

But the DNCG’s finest moments are those relating to promotion and relegation. And this summer is no different. Two cases involve clubs which on the basis of results would simply be swapping places in the league system, but that would be way too simple.

Troyes were champions of Ligue 2 last season with a margin of 13 points over second-placed Gazelec Ajaccio. They are currently barred from taking up their spot in Ligue 1 due to a €5m hole in their budget that they have until Friday to sort out (that’s around 25% of the total, according to L’Equipe). Their management are confident that this can be sorted out in time, with leftback Lionel Carole being sold to Galatasaray for a rumoured €1.5m, and one of those extremely French deals in which wunderkind striker Corentin Jean (19) is planned to be bought by Monaco for €4m who will then loan him back to his parent club. So – some things to iron out but ESTAC look likely to take up the place that is (rightfully) theirs.

Going in the other direction, Lens finished dead last in Ligue 1 with 29 points having managed only seven wins all season. Following a series of similar-ish issues last season, with major shareholder Hafiz Mammadov proving to be the kind of investor who makes Mike Ashley look reliable and football-focussed, and operating under a transfer ban that meant they were heavily reliant on youth-teamers, nine members of the squad being 21 or under, “RCL: the Series” hit season two.

Basically, they were also in trouble for not being able to guarantee their budget for next season and were in danger of being administratively relegated one step further, down to National. However – and this is almost certainly entirely unconnected to Stade Felix Bollaert being a venue for France 2016 – they’ve been given the OK to stay in Ligue 2.

Club President Gervais Martel thanked regional President Daniel Percheron for riding to the rescue in supporting RCL’s arguments, but basically said that Mammadov hasn’t been taking his phonecalls for the last year. They remain unable to recruit if that increases the current wagebill, so will presumably be losing a couple of those young prospects (Arsenal were specifically mentioned in Martel’s presser) with #Le50 shouts Wylan Cyprien, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Benjamin Bourigeaud looking particularly bankable.

The big deal, however, came right out of the blue – SC Bastia, who finished 12th last season, have been (at time of writing) relegated to Ligue 2, again, for not guaranteeing their budget to the DNCG’s satisfaction. This, despite the club pointing out that they’ve already agree a transfer (Boudebouz to Montpellier) that would more than cover the deficit. The inevitable appeal is in, and the inevitable questions are being asked – while everyone accepts that clubs must be run in a responsible way, why are some clubs held over the fire for smaller infractions than others, who are given a pass?

SCB and the LFP famously don’t get on (to say that’s an understatement is a massive understatement) but the way this is panning out so far looks pointed. The DNCG/LFP looks like a spoilt child cross that not everything works out exactly as they’d like, kicking out at a club they’ve not liked for ages. That’s not football. Last season, SC Bastia came twelfth, and reached the final of the Coupe de la Ligue. They were one of only four clubs to beat reigning champions PSG (along with Guingamp, Bordeaux, and Barcelona). And they are – appeal pending – being relegated for the want of €1.3m, which they seem to have anyway.

Transfers and tournaments may be the big talking points of the summer, but French fans also have to worry about the effect that admin could have on their club; nullifying their sporting achievements, or perhaps sending them to financial oblivion.

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