Pogacar, Roglic, Doncic: Slovenia, the small country with great athletes

The French handball players have an appointment Monday, January 16 with the Slovenian selection, for their last match of the first round of the World Handball Championships in Sweden and Poland. A tough opponent for the Blues, who will try to get back on the podium of the best handball nations, as in 2017.

In addition to this bronze medal gleaned by Slovenian handball players in France six years ago, several athletes from this country of 2 million inhabitants have distinguished themselves in their discipline at the world level, such as Tadej Pogacar, 24 years old and already double winner of the Tour de France (2020 and 2021), as well as his friend Primoz Roglic, 33, triple winner of the Tour of Spain (2019, 2020 and 2021).

A true prodigy of international basketball, Luka Doncic, 23, has also been performing thunderously for three years in the NBA, the very high American league. “Luka Magic” has already taken his selection to the top of Europe in 2017… at the age of 18. Since then, he has been considered one of the best basketball players, and has an unprecedented aura in Slovenia.

The country, which has a few alpine peaks, finally has a large pool of winter sports athletes. Alpine skiers Ilka Stuhec and Tina Maze have two Olympic gold medals in Sochi in 2014 and two world titles.

Massification of sport in Yugoslavia

This Slovenian tradition is the vestige of communist politics in the former Yugoslavia, where sporting activities occupied an important place. As early as 1945, Marshal Tito’s regime launched the Yugoslav Physical Culture Council, which later became the Yugoslav Physical Culture Federation, with a “absolute priority placed on the massification of the practice” in the direction of “amateur sports, (of the) young and (of the) workers “, explains Loïc Trégourès, author of an article on “sport in Yugoslavia, anatomy of a political project” (1).

The communist regime launches five-year plans for the construction of infrastructures throughout the territory. Marshal Tito also glorifies the performance of Yugoslav athletes at the international level, lever of influence and distinction, while Yugoslavia broke with the USSR from 1948 and gradually joined the “non-aligned” camp. “In the days of Yugoslavia, an Olympic medalist had the right to a salary, an apartment or a car”, underlines a file produced by The Team.

A sports monitoring program

Despite the fall of the dictatorship, sport remains one of the main subjects of the Slovenian education system. School children are also subjected to annual sets of aptitude tests, administered by the government. This device, called SLOfit, was created in 1980 “to better support physical education teachers responsible for guiding the motor development of their students”, explains the program’s website.

From now on, all the data collected is also used to “promote physical activities adapted to all generations of citizens”. In turn, the government has unpublished data (physical development, motor capacity) on the sporting potential of young Slovenians. And can use it to find and support the most promising.

But this sporting idyll also comes with its share of controversy. In 2019, a cyclist, Kristjan Koren, and a manager, Borut Bozic, were arrested after a doping investigation. Their names had been found in the files of a German doctor, Mark Schmidt, suspected of being at the head of a vast doping network. Other top Slovenian riders, such as Tadej Valjavec and Janez Brajkovic, are also implicated in similar cases.



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.



In team sports, the mental coach still has to find his place

The Blues in silver during their recent Euro and the Blue in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, Thursday, September 29 in Australia? If the French teams are rather good in their basketball, it may have something to do with it: before the Tokyo Games, Richard Ouvrard had accompanied the coaches of the two national basketball teams, who had completed their fortnight silver (men) and bronze (women).

Since then, the “mental coach” has started working with the players, still in its infancy but already paying off. “A global psychosocial approach, with very rich interpersonal processes, because I have relationships with everyone: the national technical director of the French federation, the technical and medical management of the teams, the groups of playershe explains. It is a systemic work that we must continue until the meeting of Paris 2024. “

Trainer Sensitivity

Richard Ouvrard is not his first experience with tricolor collectives. He muscled the mind of the Blue handball before the Rio Games and until the triumph of those in Tokyo. A more obvious success than his fifteen months of collaboration with the Bleues du football for the 2019 World Cup, without a future for lack of osmosis between the expert and the coach Corinne Deacon. And this is the limit of the intervention of a mental trainer within a collective: “It still really depends on the sensitivity of the coach. It is often he who is convinced or not of the interest of integrating a specialist or not, “ underlines Christian Penigaud, former European champion of beach volleyball (in 1993) then federal technician converted into mental coaching, called for three years alongside the French women’s volleyball team.

Do the 2024 Games in Paris push the federations to better arm themselves? “The awareness of France’s delay in this area is real, but acquiring this tool is not yet systematictestifies Laurent Chambertin, 350 selections with the Blues of volleyball between 1986 and 2001, today mental coach integrated into the high performance cell of Insep. There are still resistances: to call on an expert is to recognize a weakness. So no: it’s just wanting to improve performance. »

This difficulty, Christian Penigaud observes in the training he delivers to coaches within his federation: “There is still a lot of misunderstanding about our work, and when coaches experience a collaboration, they often tell me either it went wrong or they didn’t know what was really going on. the mental trainer. » The place of the expert within the collective is in fact a key issue. “Integrating a community with its rites and its language is not easy and you have to work upstreamsays Richard Ouvrard. Because the main thing is to be able to regulate information and emotions to make human relations more fluid. »

The performance-personality tandem

What is at stake is not always obvious, to the point that the concept of “invisible training” is sometimes evoked. “I try to work concretely on things that can be seen and measuredloose Christian Penigaud, rather reserved. It’s about improving performance, something quantifiable. » Laurent Chambertin insists on the performance-personality tandem, “without splitting the two, and insisting on sustainability so that the athletes take ownership of the work and are autonomous behind it, to promote the turnover of the workforce, for example”. However, the intervention of the mental trainer should not necessarily be too long, “to avoid habituation and a guru phenomenon”, warns the specialist.

The field is vast, and no doubt 2024 is not the ultimate deadline. “We can also talk about heritage in this areaconcludes Laurent Chambertin. Train our young people by giving them time to understand and acquire good practices, and give them a head start for Los Angeles 2028.”



War in Ukraine: athletes ordered to choose between Russian clubs and the French team

A few hours after the Euro final lost against Spain, a press release from Zénith Saint-Petersburg angered the French Basketball Federation (FFB). The leader of the France team Thomas Heurtel, who played in the competition with the Blues, signed on Wednesday September 21 with the Russian club, for a one-year contract with an optional additional year.

Thomas Heurtel, like all the players selected for the Euro, had signed a certificate shortly before the competition stipulating “that he was not committed and that he was not considering signing with a Russian or Belarusian club”. By virtue of a decision by the FFB on July 28 resulting in the exclusion of players playing in the Russian championship, the former leader of Real Madrid could be deprived of participation in the next international competitions, until the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.

Instructions from the Ministry of Sports

He would thus become the third French basketball player to suffer such a sanction, after winger Louis Labeyrie (UNICS Kazan) and winger Livio Jean-Charles (CSKA Moscow). Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian basketball has been sidelined by European authorities: exclusion from the Euroleague (the most prestigious of European competitions) and Eurobasket.

At the level of French sport, the instructions have been passed since February to the federations by the Ministry of Sports to be firm with regard to the players competing in the Russian and Belarusian championships, reports Radio France. In exchange, the federations will be “supported in the event of the provisional suspension of a member of the French team, engaged in Russia”. However, the Russian championships being not very competitive, rare are the sportsmen called in the teams of France to engage in these formations.

No penalties for volleyball players

Some ice hockey players nevertheless see their selection for the France team compromised, nine months before the world championships. Stéphane Da Costa and Yohann Auvitu, who both play for Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (central Russia) are concerned. “In the current context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it seems extremely complicated to me to (them) select “declared on September 6 Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, president of the French federation of the discipline.

However, the two players do not have the same reasons for staying in Russia, the second hockey country in the world, after Canada. “Yohann decided to distinguish between politics and sport, explained Pierre-Yves Gerbeau. He had an economic opportunity. Salaries are much higher in Russia. For Stéphane, it’s different. He left three years ago, before the humanitarian tragedy in Ukraine. He would like to return but he has a contract to honor. He thinks it’s an injustice. »

In other disciplines, however, athletes do not risk sanctions. This is the case of volleyball player Jenia Grebennikov. Selected with the Blues during the World Cup in early September (defeat of France in the quarter-finals), he had been playing in Russia for several years. Despite the war, his federation refused to penalize him.



Basketball: France outclasses Poland and secures a place in the Euro final

A total demonstration: the French basketball players, intractable in defense, left only crumbs to Poland (95-54) Friday September 16 in Berlin and are only one step away from the gold medal at the Eurobasket-2022. Nine years after their first and only international title, in 2013, here are Vincent Collet’s men one step away from a second coronation on Sunday (8:30 p.m.). But undoubtedly the highest to the extent of their journey.

They will have to step over Germany or Spain who are fighting for the other place in the final on Friday evening. The result of this half will therefore offer either a shock against a Nationalmannschaft transcended in its capital and superior to the Blues in the group stage (76-63), or a classic of European basketball against the rival Roja, so often assassin of tricolor dreams.

A quickly imposed gap

After two extensions torn thanks to two miracles in the round of 16 against Turkey and in the quarter-final against Italy, this time, the Olympic vice-champions never trembled, led by their interior Guerschon Yabusele, author of his record of points in selection (22).

Poland, clumsy (32% success in total) and muzzled, was already relegated to 16 points at halftime (34-18). No team had conceded so few in half a Euro match since Czechoslovakia in 1946 (12 points against Hungary).

Evan Fournier’s band (10 points) followed in the wake of his triple best NBA defender (2018, 2019 and 2021), Rudy Gobert (6 points and 6 rebounds), who collected blocks in the second quarter. (3). The gap quickly widened, the executives were even able to rest since only one player spent more than 20 minutes on the floor.

A flawless defense

The weaknesses, in particular the loss of balls (7 in the first round), remain there but “you have to live with”had resigned coach Vincent Collet. “We don’t have all the qualities but in any case, we don’t give up”, he positively. His players have faults but a defense.

A help of fate too. They were expecting Nikola Jokic’s Serbia in the quarter, they had Italy. They were expecting Slovenia from Luka Doncic in half, they had Poland. And the Olympic vice-champions did not miss this “great opportunity”according to Vincent Collet, to go to the final.

It is thus, one does not choose his adversary, and especially not the team of France. When the Blues could have thrown away their last two group matches to avoid a perilous journey on paper, they did not. Fate rewarded them. “We are not playing an unplayable team”recapitulated with modesty Vincent Collet.

“We have never defended like tonight since the start of the tournament, they couldn’t attack. We had a lot of success in the second half.”analyzed on the W9 channel the coach after the meeting.

Third European final

Admittedly, the unexpected Polish guests brought down the Slovenian phenomenon Luka Doncic, defending champion, but this feat marked their first irruption in the last four for 51 years. When French basketball players have only missed it once in five editions since 2011.

This third European Championship final in eleven years (out of four in total) says something about the current reservoir of French basketball, still at the top without being complete. Synonymous with the seventh medal in thirteen years of Vincent Collet’s mandate, this final also says a lot about the Normand’s record.

Neither the routine nor the unglamorous course should minimize the moment. And if it is necessary to underline the circumstances, do not forget the opposites: the two major players and creators who remained at rest, Nicolas Batum and Nando De Colo.



French basketball team: Vincent Collet, the art of rebounding without noise

Keep calm. Imperturbable, as usual. Except no. Because with these Blues, it’s hard not to lose your nerve. On his bench, coach Vincent Collet is therefore a bit more restless than usual, embarked on this emotional roller coaster imposed on him by his players in a whirlwind European championship.

In the round of 16 against Turkey, they had already done it, qualified on the wire after snatching extra time in the last unlikely seconds. In the quarter against Italy, the same thing: the score caught up in extremis at the end of the match to obtain miraculous extensions.

And here they are in the semi-finals this Friday, September 16 against Poland, a surprise guest. A new summit for Vincent Collet, who, seemingly, never stops enriching an extended list of winners. Since taking office in 2009, this is the seventh time that he has led his troops into the last four in twelve international competitions.

Orange Ball Child

All this was written very early in the little head of the kid who was already dreaming under the basket installed in the family garden of Montivilliers, in the suburbs of Le Havre. Because basketball was almost everything.

His father André, after playing, coached the local club team, the Amicale Laïque, which he would later chair. Vincent is therefore a child of the orange ball, the passion of a lifetime. Besides, he knows very quickly, from his first years as a player, that after his career, he will not let go. Throughout his 18 years on the courts (French champion in 1982 with Le Mans), he enjoys sharing, transmitting, often talking with the youngest of the clubs where he goes. He is a playmaker on the field, he will be a leader of men on the bench.

Of what genre ? ” Machine “, “chess player”, “well of knowledge”, ” perfectionist “the comments of the players on the guy often go in the same direction, to the point of giving Coach Collet a reputation as an austere monomaniac.

This is not totally false, as he likes to master his subject and always deepen his knowledge of the game. In 2020, after the break “painful, badly lived and not totally digested”he let go last year, with the Strasbourg club where he spent ten years, in addition to his mandate with the national team, Vincent Collet applied himself to what he calls a “saving break”. That is “a lot of work on mental preparation”and another on “very important personal development”. And then hours and hours of expert bulimia watching games. To do better, as always.

Maturity and sharing

“The questioning is systematic, even if we win”, he often repeats. The leitmotif guided his career with the Blues, from the outset. When he arrived in 2009, it was to restore order in the house and finally take advantage of the talent of a golden generation with Tony Parker and Boris Diaw headlining. It will take two years for everything to be in order, and for the French cadors of the NBA to finally perform in blue: silver at Euro 2011, gold at that of 2013, bronze at the Worlds of 2014, and the bronze again at Euro 2015 in France. Nice series.

But then back to earth. A disappointing sixth place at the Rio Games and above all a catastrophic twelfth place at the Euro in 2017, the first failure after the retirement of Tony Parker, during which the team fired wildly, without any solidarity. Call to order: nothing is ever acquired.

Vincent Collet still retains the confidence of federal leaders to begin reconstruction. He then has the intelligence to review his methods, to open up by expanding the management team. A great complicity is born with his new assistant Pascal Donnadieu, changed today to “real friendship”.

Vincent Collet also recognizes being more in sharing with his players. He’s talking about ” maturity “ as far as he is concerned, at 59 years old. Rediscovered alchemy: bronze at the 2019 Worlds and silver at the last Tokyo Games, this Olympic medal which was still missing from his list of hunters. This does not prevent him from granting himself only a small part in the collective success.

“Of course, the coach influences performance, but in proportions that are often quite small. I don’t know if it’s 10 to 15%, but it’s not much more.he measured in Le Figaro after the medal in Japan. Fake modest? Maybe. Still, if these 15% are enough to maintain excellence until Paris in 2024, then this word is golden.


The Polish Surprise

Upsetting, this Euro? to say the least. One by one fell the giants of the competition, to the point of leaving only the Blues as big favorites in the last four. After Serbia eliminated in the round of 16, and Greece erased by Germany in the quarter, it was the Slovenia of star Luka Doncic who collapsed on Wednesday September 14 against Poland (87-90), which find themselves in the continental semi-finals for the first time since… 1969.

The Blues will face the Polish surprise this Friday, September 16 at 5:15 p.m. (the match will be broadcast on Canal + 360 and unencrypted on W9). In the other semi-final, Germany will challenge Spain at 8:30 p.m.



Death of Bill Russell, American basketball legend and civil rights defender

He was for his family “the most prolific winner in American sports history” and for former President Barack Obama ” a giant “ : Bill Russell, crowned eleven-time NBA champion with the Celtics and civil rights defender, died on Sunday July 31.

“Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, died peacefully today at the age of 88, with his wife Jeannine at his bedside”announced his family on the Twitter account of the former player.

Upon the announcement of his death, the NBA paid tribute to the “greatest champion of all team sports”. His record is impressive and will probably never be equaled: in thirteen seasons in the NBA, all under the green jersey of the Boston Celtics, Russell won eleven league titles, a record that still stands, including eight in a row from 1959 to 1966.

Figure of American society

Although he ended his career with a very respectable average of 15.1 points per game, Russell made a name for himself thanks to his defense: from the height of his 2.08 m, he was intractable and sickened his opponents with their counters. He was also the first black American appointed to head a professional sports franchise across the Atlantic and the first to be crowned, in his second year (1967), at the head of ” his “ Celtics.

It is also outside the basketball courts that Russell has become a figure in American society, which earned him in 2011 from the hands of Barack Obama the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American civilian honor.

“Today we lost a giant”reacted to the announcement of his death the former American president. “On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off the pitch, he was a civil rights pioneer, marching with Doctor (Martin Luther) King and standing alongside Muhammad Ali. »

Advance the cause of civil rights

Born in 1934 in Louisiana, in a Deep South still living under a regime of racial discrimination, before moving with his family to California in the 1940s, Russell used his notoriety to advance the cause of civil rights. In 1963, he participated in Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.

“Bill stood for something much bigger than sport: the values ​​of equality, respect and inclusion that he inscribed in our league’s DNA”NBA boss Adam Silver said in a statement.

While the date of his funeral has not yet been set, his family hoped that “Each of us finds ways to speak and act Bill’s way, without compromise, with dignity and an always constructive approach.”



In search of funding, the sports world seizes on NFTs

On May 17, the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club (CSSA) is launching its collection of “non-fungible tokens” (or NFT, for Non-Fungible Token). Sorry ? Who does what ? Yes, the Sedan football club, illustrious for its unexpected final of the Coupe de France in 1999 and its unexpected adventure in Ligue 1 the same year and continued until 2003, which today points to National 1 (the third division) , dare the bet NFT, these digital assets whose title of ownership is guaranteed by a particular technology, the blockchain.

→ EXPLANATION. What are NFTs, this new digital passion?

In concrete terms, the CSSA will produce exactly 11,011 digital cards bearing the image of the club’s mascot, a wild boar. Each is obviously unique, and these cards can be acquired from next May for a few “ethers”, a cryptocurrency competing with bitcoin. Buyers will then benefit from some special advantages involving them in the life of the club.

Leading sectors: luxury and sport

It is this dimension that its president, Marc Dubois, wants to emphasize first: “We want to expand and retain a community of fans well beyond our small department, which has less than 270,000 inhabitants”, he says. The economic dimension is obviously also present. Even if it is difficult for a National team to sell its image, any source of income is good to take “for a club born in 1919 and which has never managed to balance its accounts”summarizes Marc Dubois.

The CSSA is in fact not the only one to want to explore this innovative digital field. “The two sectors investing the most in this ecosystem today are luxury and sport”assures Emmanuelle Dubois, co-founder of the Coinception agency, which supports Sedan in its NFT offer.

In fact, not a day goes by without a club or athlete announcing their conversion to NFTs or other cryptoassets such as tokens. The success of the French start-up Sorare, which publishes collectible NFTs of some 6,000 footballers, valued at nearly 4 billion euros in the fall of 2021, is bound to inspire. In February 2022, one of his unique cards, that of Norwegian striker Erling Haaland, sold for more than €600,000.

→ EXPLANATION. Sorare becomes the most expensive start-up in France

The former coach of the XV of France (2007-2011) Marc Lievremont and the ex-footballer of the PSG Alain Roche, associated with the company Sponsorlive, hope to crunch the success with Fanlivecards, a collection dedicated to rugby launched this month of april. Tennis coach Patrick Miratoglou put a collection called “The Coach” on sale at the end of March, after which buyers could be invited to matches or personalized coaching sessions. In November 2021, Belgian Jumbo-Visma cyclist Wout Van Aert auctioned three “sporting moments”, NFTs of his victories in the 2021 Tour at Ventoux and on the Champs-Élysées, and the classic Strade Bianche in 2020. All sold for €47,000.

The risks of a very speculative universe

If these NFTs are later resold, each new transaction should earn a percentage for the champion and his team. For these rugby cards, Marc Lievremont promises 30% for clubs and 10% for players. “The current craze shows to what extent sports players are looking for new income, in particular to replace online bettors whose sponsorship is increasingly prohibited in Europe.underlines the economist Jérémie Bastien, teacher at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne. But for the time being, NFTs are not yet bringing them much, and it is above all the digital players who are doing well.”

→ ANALYSIS. Art, luxury and video games, NFT “digital tokens” are popular

Is the nascent market destined to develop to become unavoidable? Its strengths are real. “NFTs establish a direct link with supporters, which is very valuable from a marketing point of view, and these digital products being much easier to sell than traditional derivative products, they also make it possible to reach an audience all over the world”recalls economist Philippe Herlin, a specialist in monetary issues.

But the expert also points to the main limit of the system in the making: speculation. “When you buy an NFT, you are making a double bet. On the intrinsic value of the NFT first, which in the long term is not obvious: what will a Messi NFT be worth in five years? On the value of the cryptocurrency which is then used for exchanges, the course of which is also volatile. I am not sure that this double risk is well taken into account. »

It prevents. NFTs are on the rise, and clubs are watching with interest the technological promises of tomorrow, as observed by Emmanuelle Dubois, who concludes: “When our interlocutors hear about Web3, the new generation of the Internet, and virtual universes like the metaverse, they say to themselves that we shouldn’t miss the boat. »


Crazy about tokens

Tokens are another kind of digital “tokens”. Also sold in cryptocurrency, they allow passionate buyers to have certain privileges, for example to vote for the sentence to be inscribed on the armband of the captain of a football club. PSG, Manchester City, Juventus or Barcelona, ​​among others, publish it. About 3% of Lionel Messi’s salary at PSG is paid in tokens.

The basketball club L’Élan Béarnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez will innovate on April 26 by opening part of its capital to the general public in the form of tokens. “It will be a world first”has just announced the Courtepointe Sports Group, the American investor who bought the club in June 2021.



Covid-19, French sport worried about the return of gauges

The improvement lasted barely six months. Removed on June 30, the gauges are back in sports arenas from Monday, January 3 and for the next three weeks in order to fight against the spread of Covid-19. The objective: to try to slow down the propagation of the Omicron variant. The number of spectators is therefore limited to 5,000 in outdoor stadiums and 2,000 in indoor venues. The consumption of food and drink is also prohibited.

Winter promises to be harsh for the French rugby, basketball, handball and volleyball teams, which, unlike football, do not benefit from major television rights. Some clubs fear their revenues will collapse, with their business models primarily relying on ticketing and sponsor-related events.

Ticket office losses

All are not housed in the same boat: the clubs really affected are those which enjoy an average attendance of over 2,000 people. A rare fact in French volleyball, but which concerns, for example, the Tours club. “We have more than 2,800 spectators on average out of a total capacity of 3,100 seats”, indicates Pascal Foussard, a former player who is now the club’s general manager.

→ ANALYSIS Basket: under the French baskets, the recovery

In addition to ticket office losses, the fact of not being able to honor the services promised to partners (such as reserved seats, for example) worries the manager: “Our partners are not going to continue paying for a show that we are no longer able to provide to them. “Enough to “Jeopardize the economic future of the club”, he continues, while 60% of the Volley-Ball Tours budget depends on this part “Hospitality” and ticket sales.

“We are still being punished”

Beyond the strict financial losses, it is the feeling that sport is once again sacrificed that most frustrates Pascal Foussard: “We have always adapted to the requirements of the State to limit the risks and we are still being punished. In volleyball, we don’t have television: without an audience, we don’t even have a reason to play! “

A bitterness shared by Gaëtan Müller, general manager of Asvel, the Lyon-Villeurbanne basketball club. If he “Understands the health imperative”, he is surprised at the early return of restrictions: “It is difficult to hear these measures, because we have been implementing drastic health protocols for several months and we have never been at the origin of a cluster. “

The Astroballe, the team’s lair, had to refuel for the next three games at home, against Monaco, Red Star Belgrade and neighbor Roanne. Gaëtan Müller has already quantified the ticket office losses: “With 2,000 spectators instead of 5,500, we are losing € 150,000 over the next three matches. “

State support?

For its part, men’s handball will suffer little from the situation since the French championship will not resume before February 5 because of the Euro, scheduled for January 13 to 30 in Hungary and Slovakia. Women’s clubs are more concerned. In particular Brest and Metz, which welcome more than 2,000 spectators on average in their rooms.

Metz Handball are due to play four home games in the next three weeks, including two in the Champions League. “ This decreases revenue by 50% ”, said Tuesday, December 28 Thierry Weizman, president of the club, who hoped to see his team evolve in front of 4,000 supporters.

→ ANALYSIS Faced with the pandemic, women’s sport “is in the rough”

The world of the oval ball is also grinding its teeth. “Rugby is a convivial sport whose resources, more than 60% on average, are linked to the presence of the public and to partners during matches”, explained the director general of the National Rugby League, Emmanuel Eschalier, the day after the announcement of the new restrictions. In Top 14, the elite of hexagonal rugby, the average attendance approaches 15,000 spectators. It even exceeds 20,000 at the Toulouse Stadium and is close to 25,000 in Bordeaux, at the Chaban-Delmas stadium.

To make up for the losses, many leaders are calling for more state support. “We cannot carry out our work properly, it would be logical for the State to help us”, believes Gaëtan Müller. This help would prove to be even more precious if the health situation were to worsen.

All fear that the restrictions will tighten. “If it lasts three weeks, it will be fine, confides Pascal Foussard. But we don’t want to relive the closed-door nightmare. “


Towards proportional gauges?

Many voices, especially from the soccer world, are calling for the gauges to be proportional to the size of the enclosure. “One in two seats, that had a real meaning”, regretted the director general of RC Strasbourg Alain Plet, judging “Incomprehensible” a tonnage of 5,000 people in stadiums with a capacity often exceeding 20,000 people. A call heard by the deputies: an amendment was adopted in committee of the National Assembly, against the advice of the government, to set up proportional gauges. The bill is discussed in session from Monday, January 3.



Basketball forced to rethink its distribution method

Funny rebound. Since the start of the season, basketball has been looking in vain for a place in the small skylight. A shame for a discipline which has just won silver and bronze in the men’s and women’s tournaments at the Tokyo Olympics.

The French championship? It has never been so high, with an effort to recruit clubs and the arrival of a few welcome sizes. The Euroleague? It is the first time in six years that two French clubs have played elbows under its baskets with Asvel and Monaco. And yet nothing, if not through the small end of the telescope.

For the French championship, you have to zap on Sport en France, the channel of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, or track the regional stalls of France 3, to see one match per week for free. Otherwise, everything happens on the streaming platform of the National Basketball League (LNB), with an “OTT service” (content accessible via the Internet, on computer, tablet or smartphone) as we say in digital jargon. All the matches are broadcast there, but most of them are captured by automated cameras. For the Euroleague, it is also possible to subscribe to an equivalent service, but for 79 € per season.

Focus on the Internet and 100% free

This lack of visibility, is it serious doctor? Not if one believes Alain Béral, the president of the LNB. Who does not even want to hear about visibility at half mast: “Because it’s wrong, protests the leader. On our platform, we sometimes record audiences two or three times higher than those we had on matches broadcast by RMC Sport! “ Alain Béral ​​is referring to the period 2015-2020, when basketball still benefited from a broadcaster paying 10 million euros per season for the French championship.

“Since the withdrawal of this partner, as no one offered us satisfactory exposure, we have chosen a free and unencrypted distribution, continues Alain Béral. We are betting on our OTT, which is quite unique in Europe, and we are going to improve its quality by investing in the production of premium matches. We will soon have to vote for an envelope of several hundred thousand euros for this purpose. “

Still, the absence of a broadcasting partner is also a loss of income, the LNB still distributing 7 million euros to clubs in 2019-2020, most of it coming from television rights. “We must recognize that basketball has missed the boat compared to sports such as rugby or handball, emphasizes Antoine Feuillet, lecturer and specialist in sports rights at the University of Paris-Saclay. Its product is subject to competition from the American championship, the NBA, and lacks attractiveness, with private clubs of the big stars who are precisely in the United States, and numbers that turn a lot and do not facilitate identification with teams. “

A sports story to re-enchant

This marketing work around the product is still the poor relation of many sports. “For too long, the sports leagues have had it easy with broadcasters who fought to pay, rather expensive, a show broadcast live”, notes Arnaud Simon, former CEO of Eurosport and adviser to sports organizations through his company In & Out Stories.

Except that today he continues, the channels are first thinking of reducing costs, and are now focusing only on a few flagship sports. The others must innovate, by launching OTT platforms of course, but also by offering more regular meetings, more diverse and more personalized content. The leagues have to be really active to think of an attractive product, and then slowly get the fan used to repaying. “

The modes of consumption of sport, in full upheaval, in fact destabilize the whole community. The great communions around live broadcasts are not yet a thing of the past, as the hearings of the last football Euro proved. “But it’s more complicated than before to capture the attention of the spectator on the whole of a match, assures Antoine Feuillet. Everyone, both broadcasters and leagues, must therefore think about re-enchanting the sports story, which has hardly changed for thirty years. “

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New stories exist, in Formula 1 in particular, with the documentary series Pilots of their destiny launched in 2019 by Netflix. The drivers, also very present on social networks, attract young spectators, long insensitive to the great automobile circus. The discipline is benefiting from a real renewed interest, as measured by the increase in Grand Prix audiences on Canal +. No doubt an example to think about, for basketball and others.


Difficulties, even for football

The call for tenders launched by the French Football Federation for the exclusive rights to the France team over the period 2022-2028 was not a great success. The two current broadcasters, TF1 and M6, only offered 2.5 million euros per game, against 3.5 million at the current price. The call for tenders is therefore unsuccessful for the time being. Remember that the matches of the Blues must be broadcast in the clear, which limits the suitors, and that TF1 and M6, pending marriage, also have no interest in raising the bill. “But above all, the channels no longer accept to lose money on certain products, and uncertainty therefore hangs over all television rights., comments the academic Antoine Feuillet. For the France team, it may seem crazy, but it is the downward trend of the moment. “