Equipment, public, media exposure… French volleyball to conquer new markets

On August 7, 2021, the Blues won, in Tokyo, the first Olympic title in their history against Russia. A coronation followed by a new victory for the teammates of Earvin Ngapeth, last summer, in the League of Nations against the United States. Never had the France team, whose record remained blank for sixty-nine years, from its first official match in 1946 until its first title in 2015, appeared so strong.

Uninhibited, the Blues will aim for a new title at the Paris Olympics. A performance that only the USSR (in 1964 and 1968) and the United States (in 1984 and 1988) have achieved so far. “This golden generation is quite capable of achieving this feat”, says Éric Tanguy, president of the French Volleyball Federation (FFVB).

Spectacular progress of the women’s volleyball team

During this time, the French women’s team began a spectacular progression, going from 55e place, in 2015, at the 20e place today in the international ranking. After reaching the quarter-finals of the 2021 European Championship in Serbia, the team coached by Belgian Émile Rousseaux won its first major title in 2022, in the European League of Nations.

These performances did not go unnoticed in the major European teams. Imitating Christina Bauer, who was for a long time the only Frenchwoman to play abroad, Héléna Cazaute, the captain of Les Bleues, Lucille Gicquel or Amandha Sylves recently exported their talent to the – very tough – Italian championship.

The successes of the national selections gave a serious boost to the clubs, which recorded a “real boom in licensees, around 40%”, observes Yves Bouget, the president of the National Volleyball League (LNV). But this influx caught the leaders off guard: We suffer, like all indoor sports, from a very worrying shortage of equipment for the future and the absence of an infrastructure construction plan since the end of the 1960s”, denounces Yves Bouget.

The creation of new teams is hampered by the lack of gymnasiums, while the most coveted formations resign themselves to limiting their number of licensees. Our structures have been saturated for a long time. We were already refusing people before the gold medal at the Olympics”, assures Gilles Gosselin, manager of the Saint-Nazaire club. The ambitious promoted from Ligue A, who will reopen a training center next season, discusses with the municipality“which is sensitive to this problem, but which must also carry out other projects, in particular finding land to build housing”.

An ever-increasing crowd during elite matches

This renewed attractiveness is also reflected in the level of crowds in the stands, during elite matches. Tours Volley-Ball (TVB) had 175,000 spectators last season, while Saint-Nazaire is cultivating a historic local enthusiasm for volleyball: Since we have returned to the elite, our Sports Palace has been constantly full, rejoices Gilles Gosselin. This fervor is not new. When we were relegated in 3e division, we already had an attendance higher than the average for League A clubs.

Yves Bouget regrets that this dynamic has been hit hard by the health crisis. “It delayed the work we were doing on our business model, which is to make volleyball a spectator sport. » The former president of TVB, elected head of the LNV in December 2020, is working to find new outlets for professional clubs, whose budgets remain much lower than those of basketball and handball.

To do this, the French leaders had imagined integrating into League A – for two seasons – the Chinese team, 17e in the world rankings, which would have taken up residence in a French city in order to prepare for the 2024 Olympics. The project was dismissed last summer by the Ministry of Sports: It’s a shame because the Chinese had agreed to invest 8 million euros over four years,” regrets Yves Bouget. A windfall of 2 million euros per year, higher than the current budget of the LNV. “We would have had substantial resources for real development. »

Inspired by the change made fifteen years earlier by professional handball, the LNV encourages its members to turn to private funding: “We must no longer content ourselves with chasing public subsidies”, pleads its president. A “Club License”, a new professional label, is being created to encourage clubs to structure themselves, develop their networks of partners and look more and more like companies and no longer like sports clubs”.

Media exposure, the clubs’ new hobbyhorse

A necessary policy, according to Daniel Braun, president of the Mulhouse club, one of the biggest budgets (2.2 million euros) in the women’s League A: “With the economic and energy crisis, we should have no illusions, communities are not going to increase their participation in the operation of professional clubs. »

To find new partners, the LNV has made media exposure its new hobbyhorse. The youtuber “Le volleyeur français” has thus joined the website, the streaming channel launched by the League. When I started my term, we had 6,000 subscribers. We now have 35,000. rejoices Yves Bouget, who has reached an agreement with BeIN Sports for the broadcast of the best poster of each day of the championship every Friday evening since September 30, 2022.

This is a big step forward, no doubt favored by the Olympics. It’s been a few years since we were on premium TV. If volleyball isn’t televised, we won’t move forward.” says Pascal Foussard, manager of TVB, leader of Ligue A. Among women, the media of the Altice group broadcast, live and unencrypted, the French championship on the Twitch channel of RMC Sport and on the antennas of BFM Regions.

The arrival of these broadcasters does not directly fill the coffers of the clubs, contrary to what is practiced in football or rugby, which have made television rights the bedrock of their economic model. But it will make it easier to find new sponsors. A player who wants to invest will instantly find himself with visibility around a strong brand,” claims Yves Bouget. Two large companies are in advanced discussions with the LNV to associate their name with the men’s and women’s A Leagues. The future of tricolor volleyball is played, more than ever, on the economic ground.


The number of licensees on the rise

Before the Covid-19 crisis, the French Volleyball Federation listed 135,000 licensees registered in the 1,800 clubs in France. Last season, that number was 182,800, including 99,000 men and 83,000 women.

In January 2023, 160,000 people have already subscribed to a license, 20% more than the same period last year. Girls represent 57% of license holders up to the age of 18.

The International Volleyball Federation unveiled in November the calendar and the six host cities of the group stage of the League of Nations 2023. A French city is one of them: Orléans (Loiret) will host a group including France, Brazil and Slovenia from June 20 to 25.



World Cup 2022: France-Morocco, in the stands, an audience won over to the cause of Morocco

In the stands, there is no match. During the opposition between Morocco and the France team, this Wednesday, December 14, at 8 p.m., in the semi-finals of the World Cup, 45,000 supporters of the Atlas Lions will be present against a little less than 4,000 French supporters.

The course of the Atlas Lions, which thwarted all the forecasts at the start of the competition, provoked emulation among the region’s supporters who all stand behind Morocco. In addition to Moroccan fans should therefore be added a large number of Saudis.

The Blues will thus aim for a qualification in the final, having the feeling of playing outside. In the cauldron of the Al-Bayt stadium, Didier Deschamps’ men will experience their first match in an electric atmosphere since the start of the competition. No opponent of France had until then had such substantial popular support, except Tunisia, in a match without stake (defeat 1 goal to 0).

Riots and forces

Behind the beautiful images of agreement between two friendly nations, the battle of the stands has taken on a sulphurous dimension. “We must measure that here the queues for the ticket office generate scenes of riots”explains Hervé Mougin, president of the group of supporters Les Irrésistibles Français, present in Qatar since the start of the competition. “We were chased by Moroccan supporters when they found out we were French! The local police got us out! »he laughs.

The French supporter knows that the battle will be tough. “We are not many… Usually, in a stadium, there is a visitors’ area where the fans of the traveling team congregate. There, this is not really the case and it is a safe bet that the French will find it difficult to exchange places to meet among themselves. »

Despite a tense context, the head of the group of supporters wishes to remain optimistic. “Of course our role as the twelfth man will be reduced. We are counting more on the eleven others who will be on the ground, but we will sing! », he slips. With this dispersal of forces within the stadium, Hervé Mougin is betting above all on a goal from the France team. It will stop the momentum of the Moroccan supporters and we may have a chance to be heard! » The Blues know what remains to be done.



In search of emotion, the public returns to French stadiums

Delighted, Hervé Beddeleem wears a broad smile when presenting his attendance figures. “When we look at the figures for the years preceding the health crisis, we realize that we have increased our classic subscriptions and our VIP subscriptions. » To explain such a situation, the executive director of BCM Basket (Gravelines-Dunkerque) believes that the maintenance of certain sports competitions, in times of Covid, has nevertheless allowed the public to “to keep a habit and an intimate attachment to sport, while cinemas were at a standstill and people were getting used to video platforms. »

Since the health crisis, the world of culture continues to suffer from public disaffection. The cinemas are gray, the theaters are empty. In this ambient slump, the world of sport stands out. In the stadiums, the public is back. According to Hervé Beddeleem, the festive spirit of a sporting event coincides with a desire of citizens to get together and celebrate positive things together.

“The return of the public would undoubtedly not have been followed without an adequate sports policy, which made it possible to bring in great players and to obtain results which encourage them to return to the stadium”he explains to justify the action of his club, faced with these new challenges. “We practiced special pricing by not increasing prices. Some were even lowered during the Coupe de France,” he remembers.

Implementation of strategies to reengage the public

This positive example does not reflect the whole of French sport. “The 2021-2022 season, which followed the crisis, was particularly difficult. The habits of the public have changed and add to an obvious problem of purchasing power”, tempers Fabien Roy, financial and administrative director of Fenix ​​Toulouse Handball. “We had as many spectators in total, but with the difference that we had twice as many matches, because of our qualification for the European Cup. That says a lot. »

Since the start of the school year, however, the trend seems encouraging: “We are back to our 2019 load factors, although it is a bit early to celebrate. » To remedy this, the club thought about a marketing strategy advocating the “spectacle stadium” where players make themselves available to the public, to encourage them to come to the stadium.

“Everyone plays the game, the players themselves are not above ground, they understand what is at stake”, explains Fabien Roy. The latter wishes to bet on a healthy collaboration between team sports: “Rugby and football players came to watch the handball matches. It’s up to the behemoths to give us a hand, if only to set an example. »

The most popular sports float

Football, the most popular sport in France, is benefiting from a substantial return of the public to sports venues. During the 2021-2022 season – the first full year after the health crisis – the occupancy rate of Ligue 1 stadiums was 73.9% compared to 73% in 2018-2019 and 71% the previous year, according to figures Professional Football League (LFP) officials. Nearly ten million supporters filled the stands of the various French stadiums last year.

These encouraging figures should not make us forget that, faced with its European competitors, the stands of the French championship are less attractive. In the Premier League, the English football championship, the occupancy rate fluctuates around 92%. In Germany, the rate remains around 95%. Only Spain and Italy seem to have lost spectators in recent years, still ensuring an occupancy rate of over 80%.

“We are going over the figures for 2019”

On the rugby side, while the first figures for the 2022-2023 financial year will soon be revealed, we are pleased with a rediscovered pre-Covid influx. “No doubt taking advantage of the 2023 World Cup effect and the good results of the Blues at the Six Nations Tournament, we see that we have achieved the best attendances in our stadiums for a decade”relates Thibault Brugeron, media manager for the National Rugby League. “This is due in particular to a massive communication campaign, at the end of the health crisis, to encourage people to return to the stadiums. »

Alain Béral, president of the National Basketball League, mentions an attendance rate in the stadiums of more than 80% this year. “We are in the process of going above the figures of 2019.”

For this leader, the aspect ” serial “ offered by the field of sport can explain the reasons for a return to normal. “Apart from obtaining broadcasting rights, which are certainly important, our priority for ten or fifteen years has been to bring people to the stadiums, which explains why our sport is perhaps ahead of others. others in France »testifies the latter.

Sport, a “personal commitment”

The main sports therefore seem to be doing well. For Robin Recours, lecturer at the Faculty of Sports Sciences in Montpellier, this is explained by “the immense catharsis space” offered by sports fields. It can be played “all the dramas of humanity. We can experience, during a match, a gigantic palette of emotions, ranging from laughter to tears, from anxiety to deliverance, from anger to sadness or joy. explains the historian.

Unlike the world of music or the theater, there are also strong personal identifications with the product in the consumption of sporting events. “An amateur basketball player identifies as a basketball player. It is therefore important for him to practice his sport but also to see what is happening on professional grounds. »

“Few shows allow such an identification, such a personal commitment to consumption”, continues Robin Recourse. Moreover, sport remains a space in which consumers often feel expert. “It’s the famous adage: we live in a country of 66 million breeders who have a clear opinion”recalls the historian.

As for stadium occupancy rates, Robin Recours believes that sports federations in France are “Historically amateur federations and have taken a long time to become professional”.“There is a conservatism on the side of sports federations when it comes to marketing the entertainment world”continues the researcher. “So if France is not a sporting country, it’s more because of a lack of resources than a lack of culture. »


Ever bigger speakers

With more than 80,000 seats, the Stade de France remains the largest sports arena in France, ahead of the Vélodrome de Marseille (more than 67,000 seats) and the Groupama Stadium in Lyon (59,000 seats).

England has more imposing structures, with the stadiums of Wembley (90,000 seats) and Old Trafford (nearly 76,000 seats). In Spain, the Camp Nou welcomes more than 99,000 visitors. A record in Europe.

On the occasion of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a new enclosure will see the light of day in the heart of Paris, Porte de la Chapelle. The future 7,800-seat “Adidas Arena” stadium will host badminton and gymnastics events.



At Roland-Garros, Gilles Simon capsizes the public and qualifies for the second round

“Gillou’s victory. We’re not leaving until we have it. On the third day of this 2022 edition of Roland-Garros, the leitmotiv of French supporters took them until the end of the night, Tuesday May 24. Gathered on the Simonne-Mathieu court, there were several hundred of them who no longer wanted to miss a crumb of the feat achieved before their eyes by Gilles Simon, who fell in the first round of the seeded No. 16 of the tournament, the Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in five sets (6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 6-4).

→ ANALYSIS. At Roland-Garros, the endless fall of French tennis

While retiring at the end of the season and competing, at 37, in his last edition of the Parisian Grand Slam thanks to an invitation from the organizers, the Frenchman forgot for one evening his 158and place in the ATP rankings to play a liberated tennis, taking by surprise an opponent yet experienced in rallies from the baseline on clay.

“Seeing the real Gilles Simon again one last time”

During his marathon of more than three and a half hours, the former sixth player in the world that he was thirteen years ago offered himself a second youth to remind the public of this elusive player, capable of breaking the rhythm of exchanges or to use the power of his opponent to accelerate him, during the first two sets.

I thought it would be nice if we could see the real Gilles Simon one last time, not the one who lost at 1er round of the Heilbronn tournament last week in Germany, but whoever can be on the pitch, play three hours, four hours, who is brave, who will try to find solutions, who will fight, commented the Niçois at the microphone of the organizers, a few moments after a match point applauded at 1:05 a.m. There are only geniuses left in the end, only real ones. It was an incredible atmosphere, from the start. »

In the tough physically and short of tactical solutions until the middle of the fifth round, Gilles Simon was able to use the olas, the Marseillaises and the cheers sung at each point by the gallery. He was also able to draw inspiration from the last career match of his playing partner and childhood friend, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who lost a few hours earlier with honors against Casper Ruud (7-6, 6-7, 2 -6, 6-7), then the young Hugo Gaston, qualified for the second round after another fight of five sets against the Australian Alex De Minaur (4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 0-6 , 7-6).