Brest, Reims, Grenoble, Le Mans… These clubs returned from the hell of judicial liquidation

The Auguste-Delaune stadium in Reims.

From Bordeaux in 1991 to Marseille in 1994, via Lens in 2015, major French football clubs have experienced the threat of bankruptcy with liquidation. Most often, a buyer went to the bedside, as with Robert Louis-Dreyfus for the Olympique de Marseille (OM), or the Canal + group in 1991, saving a Paris-Saint-Germain from filing for bankruptcy ( PSG) not far from knowing the fate of its ephemeral neighbor and rival: Matra Racing, left to its sad fate by Jean-Luc Lagardère at the end of the 80s.

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The 1990-1991 season saw the arrival of a new actor whose acronym has since given rise to cold sweats to all presidents: the national management control department (DNCG). Financial policeman of French football, the DNCG hits hard for its debut and sanctions three clubs living beyond their means. And they are not the only ones besides. At the time, the overall deficit of Division 1 (D1) was estimated at 150 million euros.

Sportingly saved, Bordeaux (9e), Brest (10e) and Nice (14e) are relegated to the second division. Overwhelmed by the extraordinary expenses of the Claude Bez years, the Girondins narrowly missed bankruptcy before finding the eyewear maker Alain Afflelou as a good Samaritan. Brest Armorique was not so lucky and was put into liquidation in December 1991. The players were released from their contract and a certain David Ginola entered into free of any contract with PSG.

Brest returned from hell

Scared by these examples and forced to a certain financial orthodoxy by the DNCG, the clubs are therefore supposed to be more rigorous in keeping their accounts. In theory. This did not prevent bankruptcies, but none of a club maintained on the field in D1 then in Ligue 1 (L1). In the summer of 2000, the Toulouse Football Club (last and relegated to D2) came close to filing for bankruptcy before being saved by a young local entrepreneur, Olivier Sadran, who said he had “Found neither jerseys nor balls” on arrival. Others were not so lucky. Grenoble (2011), Sedan (2013), Le Mans (2013), Evian-Thonon-Gaillard (2016) or Bastia (2017) all go through the liquidation box and return to the amateur championships under a new entity.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to turn a good student into a dunce, as the case of Le Mans proves. Close to European places in the mid-2000s, the Sarthe club never recovered from its surprise relegation in 2010 and its non-recovery the following season on goal difference with the third in the championship. Two years later, Le Mans FC filed for bankruptcy and its brand new stadium, the MMArena, seemed too big to host honor division matches.

Fortunately, there is life after bankruptcy. Brest (now Stade Brestois) has returned from hell and has been playing in L1 for two seasons. The management of the Finistère club is cited as an example, as is that of the Stade de Reims. In 1991, the Kopa and Fontaine club went into receivership and even had to auction off the trophies of its glorious 1950s. After crossing the desert for a dozen years, Reims took the time to rebuild itself, first in Ligue 2 then in Ligue 1. At the start of the season, the club even stealthily regained the European Cup.

Everything would be fine for the Stade de Reims if it weren’t for the shadow of Mediapro’s default in payment added to those of the consequences of the health crisis. But, this time, it is all the French professional football which sails on the same galley and wonders who will fall apart.

The editorial : The French football model trapped by Mediapro


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