without its 12th man, OM will be content with a “discreet” edition against Manchester City

Tuesday, October 27, Manchester City's reception in the Champions League will be played behind closed doors, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

You miss only one being and everything is depopulated… A fortiori, the feeling of emptiness becomes abysmal when the absentees amount to 67,000, that is to say the maximum number of people at the Vélodrome stadium. To compress the incredible hemorrhage of ten defeats in a row in the Champions League, Olympique de Marseille (OM) will have to do without the support of its dear audience.

Tuesday, October 27, the reception of Manchester City will be played behind closed doors, a formula which, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, is becoming a sad daily life. It was also in an empty stadium, that of Olympiakos Piraeus, that the Marseillais lost (1-0), last week, on the occasion of their return to the queen of European competitions, after seven years of absence.

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Harmless against the Greeks, Dimitri Payet’s teammates are faced with a mountain as the second meeting of Group C. And to reverse the European cycle of defeat, facing the swarm of Mancunian stars bought at a high price by the owners Emirati, you will have to rely only on yourself.

“Comparing the Vélodrome to the twelfth man is not trivial. Thanks to this stage, many players surpass themselves, the opponent is under pressure. The Marseille audience pushes you to play higher and to attack all the time. Without an audience, unconsciously, you project yourself less ”, explains Eric Di Meco, Marseille European champion in 1993.

Marseille’s official commentator in the Champions League on RMC Sport, Eric Di Meco, still very close to the club, still remembers one of the last European matches in the Europa League, against Frankfurt at the Vélodrome stadium in 2018 – “Which had been very difficult (2-1 loss) , because disputed behind closed doors, due to disciplinary action.

“In my discussions with them, the players recognize their responsibility for the poor results, but they are disappointed not to be able to play this competition in front of their home crowd. It was a dream, adds the former sports deputy of the Marseille city (between 2001 and 2007). The camera is more worrying for me than what we see of the team now. “

The “carnal link between the club and the city”

A few days before this failed reunion with the European competition in Piraeus, coach André Villas-Boas recalled the links between his club, the European Cup and his supporters. “The big disillusionment is to reach this level and to find oneself, with OM and its great European history, its two Champions League finals (…), to play without an audience, that is to say the thing that defines OM a bit: the fervor of its supporters ”, regretted the Portuguese.

In Marseille, even more than anywhere else in France, the mythology of the former European Cup of Champions Clubs, the one that allows a star to be proudly displayed above the crest, remains alive. Even if she is battered by the accumulation of defeats and … the health situation.

“There is excitement, but it has nothing to do with what we experienced during the great hours of the European Cup. From the moment when not only the public cannot come to the stadium but cannot even meet in bars or places to share the broadcasts, it becomes something quite dull ”, asserts theater producer Richard Caillat, member of the board of directors of the OM association. For the Marseillais, “The rupture of the carnal link between the club and the city, between the club and all layers of the population, is penalizing”.

Lecturer at Aix-Marseille University, a specialist in the strategic marketing of sports organizations in particular, Lionel Maltese agrees: “What makes the strength of OM is its stadium, the heart of its brand. It is one of the most human and lively brands in France. Playing behind closed doors, without the relational resources, ticketing and hospitality, is somewhat like participating in a “discreet” Champions League. “

The Champions League is priceless

The closed door entails not only the loss of revenue from a poster that would have sold out, but also the mourning of a large-scale economic offer, attached to this remunerative competition. “OM-City is supposed to be a top offer, to which we can hook less attractive offers, in Ligue 1 for example. Around this flagship, it’s not just the game of the day that counts, analyzes M. Maltese. It is the whole brand that increases in value and can generate several million euros. “

Good European performances, when the Europe of football has its eyes on you, and it’s the value of the most prominent players that is also skyrocketing. It is also necessary for this not to chain defeats. “The Champions League is a showcase. It is priceless. If you use it well, it allows your club to generate competitive advantages, which OM have not had in recent years ”, adds the sports marketing specialist.

At a time when the economy of French football is shaking on its (televisual) foundations following Mediapro’s decision not to pay the sums planned for the broadcasting of Ligue 1, to participate this season in the Champions League, even in an edition ” discreet “, allows us to hope to limit the damage.

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“Everyone will suffer and, in the period we are going through, this is the year to be there. Without the Champions League, it would have been very problematic for the club’s economy ”, breathes Richard Caillat, also founder, in 2013, of the OM Business Club, an entity which brings together Olympian partners.

At around 2.7 million euros a victory in the group stage – the bonus dispensed last season by UEFA – Olympians would be well advised to break with defeat. For their supporters subject to the law of curfew and for the finances of their club.


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