Finally D-Day for the American era of Olympique Lyonnais? In any case, it is this Thursday that the sale of the club must be finalized, as scheduled by both OL and John Textor’s Eagle Football group, during a second postponement of the operation, on 24 october. Since the presentation of the American businessman in front of the press on June 21, it seems to be the direction of history to see Jean-Michel Aulas hand over, even if he would remain for another three years the president of the club. . Except that many setbacks have accompanied these last five months, and a new postponement, or even a failure of the transaction, cannot be excluded.
20 minutes wonders how crucial, if not even vital, it is to see this negotiation succeed this Thursday, after John Textor’s successful appearance before the DNCG on Wednesday, as indicated The Team. Against the backdrop of a central question: could OL really reconnect with its glorious destiny of the 2000s (seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles) without benefiting from the fresh money and momentum embodied by a new investor?
Economic fragility with the construction of the stadium
From 2007, as OL rushed towards their last months of sporting hegemony (French champion in 2007 and doubled L1-Coupe de France in 2008), the club’s stock market listing became official and Jean’s project -Michel Aulas to build his own stadium is at the same time a visionary turning point in French football. This Parc OL de Décines (Rhône), which involved a total investment of 410 million euros for the club; Wasn’t it ultimately too risky an economic gamble? According to The TeamOL now has €300 million in debt with thirteen banks.
“I think it was a very good decision, says Vincent Chaudel, co-founder of the Sport Business Observatory. But as we also saw with Arsenal, which declined in sporting performance at the end of the Wenger era by building the Emirates Stadium, instead of investing in sports, we mainly invest in stone. This period reversed the Lyon dynamic because OL may have changed too many things at the same time: the management model with the arrival on the bench of Claude Puel with expanded functions, recruitment with significant risk taking on Yoann Gourcuff, and therefore the economic model with the construction of the stadium. When you change so many things, you are at the mercy of the slightest grain of sand. »
One of the grains of sand on OL’s path has precisely concerned this new stadium, only available in January 2016, long after the projections made by Jean-Michel Aulas, especially because of the multiple appeals from local residents. “We had planned to build the stadium in 2010, when we were in the Champions League, recalled JMA in 2014 at Lyon Capital. And there, we pay considerable sums in procedural costs to respond to the 80 lawsuits made by a minority of people who have no idea of what it costs: more than 10 million euros. »
Sports economist Vincent Chaudel confirms: “This new stadium was delivered a few years late, and this is a period when OL would have needed the 20-30 million euros per year that the stadium could have report to him. And above all, it does not give its full measure today in the club’s economy since it is not used in a Champions League mode.
The European countryside is moving away
Lyon’s economic drama is easily targeted and can be summed up in one stat: OL have missed 7 of the last 11 Champions League qualifications. The sporting anomaly is undeniable since Lyon remained the second budget of the championship throughout this period. Likewise, it is quite insane that the 2020 semi-finalist of the most prestigious European competition has since watched all the C1 campaigns on television. He is likely to do the same next season, given his current sluggish 8th place in Ligue 1, 10 points from the podium. While his last title dates back more than ten years (the Coupe de France 2012), his sporting downgrading is clear in France.
And the absence of the Champions League systematically deprives OL of a jackpot of at least 50 million euros, between the fixed participation bonus, that relating to its UEFA history and the share of television rights, plus 2, 8 million euros for each success in the competition… And this without mentioning ticketing revenue, which could reach 4 million euros for a poster at Parc OL. Former president of Losc and RC Lens, Luc Dayan deciphers the impasse in which the Lyon club finds itself in view of its difficulties in finding Europe.
Jean-Michel Aulas never hid it: in its projected budgets, OL had to make the Champions League at least two out of three years. The thing that could not have been foreseen by the Lyon leaders when launching their own stadium project was the arrival of Qatar at PSG. Before that, OL were almost always first or second [9 fois de 2000 à 2012]. The takeover of PSG mechanically blocked a place in C1. Lyon, which found itself forced to repay part of the real estate of its project, was then unable to devote this money to its payroll. Clubs like Monaco, Lille and others have therefore become strong contenders for the podium. And when you don’t receive the 50 million euros that you had planned from UEFA, you have to get them out in another way: by selling your best players like all French football does except for PSG. »
Towards an inevitable impoverishment of the workforce
The juicy sales this year of Brazilian midfielders Bruno Guimaraes and Lucas Paqueta perfectly illustrate Luc Dayan’s point. OL thus did not hesitate to sell in 2022 the two largest market values of its workforce, even if it meant depriving itself of its two best players, despite the sporting dynamic then already worrying with Peter Bosz. Like another star player before him, Memphis Depay, who left a year earlier, Lucas Paqueta was symbolically not replaced last summer, after leaving for West Ham at the very end of the transfer window.
It’s simple, over the last two seasons, Stade Rennais (current 3rd in Ligue 1) has spent almost five times more money than OL in transfer compensation (€155m against €32m). Bad economic and sporting operations are also accumulating in Lyon, which pays for a number of bad choices in recruitment and management of its assets. Houssem Aouar and Moussa Dembélé should leave the club at the end of their contract next summer. As for the contribution of Romain Faivre, the last big investment on the scale of this OL (17 million euros, bonus included), it has been (very) disappointing so far.
A really less uncertain future?
Add to this gloomy picture the Mediapro fiasco and the consequences of Covid-19, with 36.5 million euros in losses announced in June 2020 by OL Groupe, then 50.6 M€ for the end of 2020, and you will partly understand why. Pathé (19.36%) and IDG Capital (19.85%) shareholders have wanted to withdraw from the Lyon capital since last March. Even the extreme diversification of the club (OL Féminin, OL Vallée, concerts at Parc OL, the future OL Arena, etc.) is therefore no guarantee of economic recovery in the medium term. “Everything that President Aulas has put in place is intended to cushion as much as possible against potential sporting underperformance,” analyzes Vincent Chaudel. But when Lyon is sportingly not where it should be, that inevitably impacts its economy. If OL had participated in the last three Champions League campaigns, they might not need an investor today. »
This should therefore be John Textor, since within the Lyon club, we were still confident on Wednesday. Both owner of Botafogo (Brazil), and majority shareholder in Crystal Palace (England) and Molenbeek (Belgium), the 57-year-old American businessman would in any case have convinced the DNCG. And if the deal ever fails for good, what would be the outlook for Lyon? “OL has the particularity of having shareholders who have deep pockets, whether it be Jean-Michel Aulas and his family holding company, Pathé and IDG Capital, insists Luc Dayan. If the club needs to pay losses in order to stay alive, shareholders will have to take money out of their pockets. We can imagine that at OL, they will not abandon the club as was the case in Bordeaux. Then to Pathé, IDG or even Holnest to then find people to buy their shares. So, as thrilling as a header from Jimmy Briand in derby injury time, this possible closing timeNope ?
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