Football clubs still make billionaires dream

After the Russians, the emirs of the Gulf, the Chinese, make way for the Americans. In recent months, investment funds have multiplied the takeovers of football clubs in Europe. In Great Britain, Chelsea has just been taken over by a consortium led by businessman Todd Boehly, already co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. He will pay 3 billion euros to take over the shares of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and has promised to inject an additional 2 billion into the London club. It is the largest transaction ever made in a team sport.

The return on investment is not obvious, but by buying out a team, a fund gains notoriety which can enable it to attract other investors and therefore increase its financial standing”, analyzes Jean-François Brocard, lecturer at the Center for Sports Law and Economics. Clearly, it would be a kind of marketing expense. The prospect of carrying out a real estate project on the land belonging to the stadium and the development of derivative products can also whet the appetite of a fund.

Toulouse FC and Red Star under American control

In Italy, AC Milan, the former club of Silvio Berlusconi, is also changing hands. Owned by Elliott Management since 2018, it was bought in early June by another American fund, RedBird Capital, for 1.2 billion euros, which owns shares in baseball in the United States and in the club of Liverpool. In the summer of 2020, he also became the main shareholder of Toulouse FC, which will return to Ligue 1.

Several American funds are also in discussion with Olympique Lyonnais to take a stake. At the beginning of May, 777 Partners based in Miami, took over the Red Star, the club of Saint-Ouen, in the Paris suburbs. He already owns Genoa, Italy, Standard de Liège in Belgium, part of Spanish club FC Sevilla, as well as Brazilian Vasco de Gama.

Financialization is accelerating

The period is conducive to this frenzy of acquisitions. There is money to invest and clubs to sell, hard hit by the Covid crisis and in need of fresh money.

We are taking a further step in the financialization of football, with the risk that these new investors seek to limit the sporting hazard, by pushing for the creation of closed Leagues, without ups and downs, as in the United States “, emphasizes Jean-François Brocard. A similar project, called “Super League”, imagined by twelve football clubs (six English, three Spanish and three Italian) is still pending.



Incidents at the Stade de France: questions still pending

While the controversy over the management of the Champions League final on Saturday does not weaken, the senators will audition, this Wednesday 1stJune, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and his sports colleague, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra. The causes of these incidents, such as the attacks that took place before and after the match, continue to raise questions, while the opposition demands clarity on responsibilities.

► Is the figure of 40,000 supporters without tickets or with counterfeit tickets correct?

Did Gérald Darmanin lie when he mentioned “30,000 to 40,000 English supporters without tickets or with falsified tickets” and an “massive, industrial and organized fraud” ? A phenomenon on a scale never observed before, which would be the “root evil” incidents.

→ REREAD. Champions League: chaos around the Stade de France

The first occurrence of this number is in a report from the prefect of police Didier Lallement to the minister, on May 29. Asked by The cross Tuesday on the origin of this information, the police headquarters refers to the Ministry of the Interior, which did not respond. On the evening of the match, Gérald Darmanin spoke on Twitter about “thousands” supporters without tickets or with fake tickets, after a press release from UEFA which mentioned “thousands” holders of falsified tickets (according to AFP, the FFF and UEFA would have estimated 2,800 “scanned fake tickets”).

→ EDITORIAL. Stade de France incidents: speed and precipitation

Following an interministerial meeting on Monday, the Minister of the Interior takes up the number of the police headquarters. “These are the public transport figures, that’s also how we manage to document it, independently of CCTV images and checks.indicated Gérald Darmanin. There were 40,000 more people on the RER D and line 13”. Which would therefore have been added to the 22,000 Britons with valid tickets, causing congestion.

However, the RATP indicates to The cross that there was no“special crowd” that night. Metro line 13 transported 26,000 passengers towards Saint-Denis, RER D 37,000 and RER B only 6,200 (disturbed by a strike whose success the unions hailed, calling for a restart for the France- Denmark Friday June 3). That is nearly 70,000 people to the stadium and the Spaniards fan-zone, enclosures welcoming a total of 80,000 people. The SNCF confirms the figures relating to the two RERs. “Everything went well that evening, there is nothing special to report,” she specifies.

Many people present also question the official version. “The figure is completely fancifulsweeps Pierre Barthélémy, lawyer for supporters, present as an observer for the association Football Supporters Europe (FSE). Very few people with fake tickets were blocked, and there was never a reflux of 30,000 to 40,000 people to the RER. It would have been colossal. This number may correspond to that of the British who were in the Place de la Nation fan-zone. » The Bobigny prosecution opened an investigation into the counterfeit notes on Monday.

► What do we know about attacks before and after the match?

For three days, the Spanish and English press have been reporting a large number of testimonies on the attacks on supporters that took place before and especially after the final. “Never go to see a match in Paris”, writes on Twitter Martin Varsavsky, a business leader who has returned to Madrid “horrified”.

All the stories refer to “youth gangs” numerous and “organized”, “hunting” fans to steal mobile phones, wallets, bags or stadium tickets. “When I left the stadium to go to the metro, I was really scared. There were a lot of young people, maybe 300, who all came running. They had knives and box cutters,” tell to The cross Alvaro, Real Madrid supporter. VSsome started fights while others took advantage of it to steal what they could. It was apocalyptic.” adds Bertrand, resident of Saint-Denis.

Testimonies confirmed by police unionists. “Colleagues on site, accustomed to matches at the Stade de France, told me that they had never seen anything like it”, indicates Ludovic Bonnet, deputy departmental secretary Unit SGP Police 93. “We were faced with sometimes very young offenders, who acted a few meters from the police”, adds Grégory Goupil, Ile-de-France deputy national secretary for the Alliance union. Many spectators attacked denounce the very insufficient presence of the police or their passivity. “Colleagues did what they could. But it’s true that there were so many attacks that they were overwhelmed,” recognizes a trade unionist.

→ ANALYSIS. Champions League in Paris: ominous incidents before the Olympics?

From these testimonies alone, it is difficult to precisely establish the profile of the aggressors. “There were young people from the housing estates of Saint-Denis but also people in an irregular situation from other areas of Île-de-France, as well as unaccompanied minors”, says Ludovic Bonnet. After the match, 48 people were taken into custody and, for the vast majority of them, came out free after a few hours. “Either because of procedural irregularities, or because the facts were not established or insufficiently characterized”, we explain to the Bobigny prosecutor’s office.

“Among those taken into custody, there were no English or Spanish supporters. Nor any person who used counterfeit banknotes,” add to the parquet floor. This Tuesday, six people, prosecuted for thefts in meetings or with violence, were to be tried in immediate appearance.

► What political consequences?

The opposition intends to shine the spotlight on the political responsibility for this disaster, while the Senate hears the Minister of the Interior and his sports colleague this Wednesday. “In the absence of a question and answer session to the government, it was important to be able to question them”, explains the centrist senator Laurent Lafon, president of the commission of cultural affairs in charge of sports, who considers the first elements of explanation insufficient.

Do we need a commission of inquiry, as some elected officials demand? “It’s not our orientation”, responds the senator from Val-de-Marne, recalling that Parliament cannot conduct such an investigation in parallel with a legal procedure. “We have to put things straighthowever, insists Philippe Bas, senator LR and member of the law commission. The refusal to pose the problems and see reality in the face is never constructive. »

Although the opposition has taken up the subject, many majority MPs are still ready to defend the government, blaming the RATP strike, ticketing problems or even supporters “radicalized”. “You cannot ask the police to recover a situation when the problems have accumulated upstream”advances the deputy of Seine-et-Marne Jean-Michel Fauvergue, who also believes that the use ” absolutely necessary tear gas on supporters “probably saved lives”.

But even within the majority, the case is embarrassing. LREM deputy Sacha Houlié, supporter lawyer, deplores problems that do not date from last Saturday. “Throughout the season, the national division for the fight against hooliganism has not worked, the movement of supporters has been prohibited, the prefectures no longer consult the clubs. It can’t work well. » The member for Vienne denounces above all a lack of ” political will “. “ If we accept the commonplace that football fans are unmanageable – which I totally refute – then we give up organizing matches… ”


Concern before the Olympics

Saturday’s incidents come on the eve of two major international events in France: the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

The organizers of the Olympic Games are faced with a colossal challenge: welcoming 600,000 spectators (seven times the Stade de France) on the banks of the Seine in Paris for an outdoor opening ceremony. “We will be ready” in two years, assured Tuesday the president of the Organizing Committee of the Games, Tony Estanguet.

The new Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, on Monday ordered an analysis report which must be given to her within ten days, calling for “strengthen the management of major events”.



England still largely dominate women’s rugby

There was, however, this beautiful moment of euphoria. This test planted with authority from the fourth minute, and the Bleues opened the scoring by affirming their ambition of the day: to win in Bayonne, Saturday April 30, their sixth grand slam in the Six Nations Tournament, the first since 2018. And above all to beat these English women posting nine consecutive victories against the XV of France.

→ ANALYSIS. Rugby: the women’s XV of France comes out of the shadows

But the joy was short-lived. Because the steamroller of the XV of the Rose started, flattening all the hopes, the desires to do well. Strong in their power and also taking advantage of the weaknesses of the Blues in conquest, the English confiscated the leather to accompany it behind the goal line. Three attempts thus chained together, an inexorable wave, sweeping away everything in its path. A minimalist but terribly effective rugby. And against which the Blues have not found a solution.

The excellence of an English championship renovated in 2017

“The fact of the game is our lack of balls”, could comment Thomas Darracq, the sports manager of the France team. In fact, too often penalized or countered on the keys (8 ball losses, a huge waste), the Blue could hardly express themselves. Hence the “frustration” what Annick Hayraud mentioned after the defeat, emphasizing: “We will have to find solutions. » It is therefore the English who have enriched their record, offering themselves their tenth grand slam in the Six Nations Tournament, and their 19th consecutive victory in the competition.

However, this unchallenged domination owes nothing to chance. England has been betting big on the development of women’s rugby since 2017. In September of that year, the Rugby Football Union (RFU, the English rugby federation) professionalized the national championship of its players, renamed “Premier 15s”. The competition goes from eight to ten teams, franchises mostly from the women’s sections of the big clubs (Saracens, Harlequins, Wasps, etc.). The authority devotes nearly 3 million euros over three years to its championship, and thus hopes to cause a boom in female licenses in clubs. The objective is to reach 50,000 licensees in 2021.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, thwarts this momentum for a time. In 2020, the championship loses its official sponsor (a famous brand of crisps), and the budget is revised downwards. But the RFU does not spare its efforts so that the adaptation is only cyclical. A new partner, the insurance giant Allianz, is on board for the following season, and the RFU takes the opportunity to increase the salary cap that clubs can devote to women’s salaries this year (from €70,000 to €140,000).

A doubling of licensees

The sum can obviously make you smile in comparison with the 6 million euros available to the male Premiership clubs. But it testifies to the desire for progress of a women’s championship whose players are now semi-professional, combining rugby and part-time work (half the week). A situation that does not concern 28 of the players of the national team, benefiting from special contracts allowing them to devote themselves 100% to rugby.

The Premier 15s suddenly displays quality matches, which is starting to interest broadcasters. The BBC broadcasts one match a day on its digital platform, and pay-TV BT Sport broadcasts the semi-finals and the final of the championship (mid-May). So many assets that are attracting more and more young English women. The RFU did not reach its objective of 50,000 licensees, but it nevertheless doubled its workforce to 40,000 licensees (26,000 in France).

So of course, the picture is not yet idyllic with most clubs “lose money again”, recently acknowledged Sue Day, the financial director of the RFU. Emphasizing that it was about betting on “long-term development”, with the 2025 Women’s World Cup in sight, which England should host. Can the XV of the Rose thus maintain its lead over the other nations? Next element of response to the 2022 World Cup (from October 8 to November 12 in New Zealand), where France will find England in its pool (with South Africa and Fiji). Les Bleues know that there is still a lot of work to compete.


The difficult road to professionalism

If France can at least resist the English machine, this 2022 Tournament has once again revealed how much other nations are struggling to exist. The English have crushed Scotland (57-5), Italy (74-0), Wales (58-5) and Ireland (69-0). In these countries, the professional structure of women’s rugby remains at half mast. In December 2021, around 60 current and former Irish players wrote to the government asking “significant change”. The Italians also remain 100% amateurs, when around thirty Scottish players benefit from assistance, but very partial. Only Wales are starting to follow the path set by France and England by professionalizing twelve of their players full-time this year, but without guarantee for next season.