Ligue 1 football, accelerator of wealth for the territories

A Auxerre, passé depuis peu en Ligue 1, les salons VIP de l'AJA sont remplis et les listes d'attente s'allongent.

Posted Oct 3, 2022, 4:57 PM

Maximum pressure on the little Poucet of Ligue 1. The professional football league decided to reduce the number of clubs in the top flight from 20 to 18 for the 2023-2024 season. Consequence: for the first time in a quarter of a century, four clubs will be relegated to Ligue 2. Ajaccio, Brest, Reims, Auxerre and a few others are in the breach. The mayors of the cities concerned play big, too. In territories that have failed to develop, more than elsewhere, professional sport is not just about its sporting dimension or an excess of pride.

Certainly, in this industry, a large part of the wealth is generated by and for the players. But football organizations do not fail to recall the impact of a club on a territory. This goes beyond the world of football. In rugby, the Stade Rochelais evaluated its local benefits at more than ten million euros per year, when the National League spoke, before the Covid, for all the clubs, of more than 540 million for France. . For football, the numbers are almost five times bigger.

Crowd at the stadium

“A club, in a conurbation, represents on average an annual economic impact of 55 million euros”, indicates Bruno Belgodère, deputy general delegate of Foot Unis, the employers’ organization of pro clubs. Its 45 clubs, even more in Ligue 1, employ local suppliers for the maintenance of facilities, reception of the public, transport of players and operation of training centers, not to mention their own employees.

Beyond the providers, the relegation of a club, for the territory, is the certainty of being less visible, and therefore less attractive, both for business and for tourism. With its Museum of Fine Arts and its City of Gastronomy, Dijon has not done badly with tourists, but the demotion last year has financial consequences. “In concrete terms, being in Ligue 2 costs us more”, confides the mayor, François Rebsamen, while the fee paid by Dijon Football Côte-d’Or (DFCO) for the occupation of the stadium, indexed to the number of spectators , has melted by more than half.

“Economic Support”

In Auxerre (Yonne) too, after the transition to Ligue 2 in 2012, the crowds at the stadium were halved, spectators came from less far and were fewer in shops and hotels. Since the rise, the club, owned since 2016 by a Chinese billionaire, has sold out. More than 300 companies flocked to the VIP lounges, which have become a networking hotspot for leaders in the region.

Second largest private employer in Auxerre with 106 full-time equivalent jobs, AJ Auxerre is “an economic support for the department”, defends Baptiste Malherbe, its executive president. “Companies really feel that supporting AJA can help them,” he says. Being the team’s jersey sponsor hasn’t it enabled Louault trailers, an SME from Puisaye, to acquire national and international renown in the past?

Clermont-Ferrand, which was a land of rugby for a long time, has experienced the same enthusiasm since the club’s move into the elite last year. “The entire fabric of SMEs has registered as a partner of Clermont Foot 63. Companies have invested in the lodges and there is today a waiting list”, indicates Olivier Bianchi, the PS mayor.

The hotel industry benefits from this. “Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 really have nothing to do in terms of impact, underlines the elected official. In the first case, the matches are played with great teams, some of which make European history, and the media coverage is unprecedented. »

“Strongly Associated”

“As the clubs bear the name of the cities, one and the other are strongly associated”, analyzes Christophe Lepetit, head of studies at the Center for Sports Law and Economics, in Limoges: “There is a strong conjunction of interests between the actors, who must work together to maximize the positive effects on the economy and communication. »

The Auxerre municipal team elected in 2020 intends to take advantage of the spotlight offered to it to demonstrate the assets of the territory, affected by demographic decline and a certain impoverishment. “When we discuss with project leaders, we quickly come to talk about football and the rise in Ligue 1. The subject is a facilitator”, explains Crescent Marault, the LR mayor of the city.

Interest of public authorities

Between courteous cohabitation and active collaboration, each city has its own method. In any case, a local authority cannot be a shareholder of a sports company, status of all pro clubs with the exception of Bastia (Ligue 2), constituted as a cooperative society of collective interest. If there are less and less subsidies from communities, “the interest of public authorities, and in particular mayors, so that clubs survive is greater and greater”, assures Bruno Belgodère.

In Auxerre, the town hall strengthened the AJA grant agreement and extended it to the urban community. The club has the distinction of owning its facilities and taking charge of 100% of its operation, but an agreement has been reached so that the region, department, city and club share the major investments. Ransom of the passage in Ligue 1: it will be necessary to reinforce the lighting for the TV broadcasts, to review elements of security and accessibility to the stadium. “We are in the process of soliciting the communities”, slips Baptiste Malherbe. Gaining a few places in the standings wouldn’t be so bad…


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