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Soccer stadium management in the French Ligue 1

Unlike the major European clubs, most Ligue 1 teams in France do not own their stadiums or operate them exclusively. In the majority of cases, the stadium is owned by the local authority, which manages its operation through a variety of management methods. There are 5 different stadium management methods in Ligue 1, giving clubs varying degrees of autonomy over their production facilities. We’ll briefly outline these 5 management methods, using the examples of 5 Ligue 1 clubs.

Olympique Lyonnais (OL):

After playing for many years at the Stade Gerland, owned by Lyon town hall, OL now plays at the Groupama Stadium, which it owns. The stadium was financed exclusively by private funds, the majority of which came from OL, which reduced its purchases on the transfer market for several years in order to free up cash for the stadium’s construction.

However, this operation is very interesting for Olympique Lyonnais, which is now the sole operator of its stadium and receives all the profits. The main income comes from ticket sales for the team’s matches, but not only. OL also receives income from other events held at the stadium, such as the 2018 Europa League final, Top 14 finals and concerts.

This management method, unique for a Ligue 1 club (but not unique for French soccer clubs: for example, the Abbé Deschamps stadium in Auxerre belongs to the AJA or the Stade François Coty in Ajaccio belongs to the ACA), provides OL with a regular and substantial income.

Paris Saint Germain (PSG):

Shortly after QSI took over at the PSG, they negotiated with Paris City Hall to sign an emphyteutic lease for the Parc des Princes. As a result, a lease running until 2044 was signed between Paris City Hall and the PSG. An emphyteutic lease has the advantage of being long-term, and gives its beneficiary far more extensive rights than those enjoyed by a simple tenant.

Indeed, under this system, the PSG enjoys the Parc des Princes almost as if it were the owner. In fact, it is the club that has financed all the stadium’s modernizations (creation of luxury boxes, reconfiguration of the stands, etc.).

As a result, the PSG is the sole operator of the Parc des Princes, and signs contracts for the organization of events other than matches at the stadium. Similarly, the PSG is the sole beneficiary of ticket sales for its matches. In return, the PSG pays rent to the Paris City Council, but this management method does not provide a real source of income.

Toulouse Football Club (TFC):

TFC plays at Toulouse’s Municipal Stadium, which is owned by the city council. For many years, the TFC benefited from a favorable climate on the part of the Toulouse city council, which leased the stadium to the club for an annual rent of just €200,000. While on paper this may appear to be an advantageous deal for the club, in practice it is not. In concrete terms, TFC uses the Stadium under a public domain occupancy agreement, so the profits from ticket sales do not belong exclusively to the club.

Similarly, the club has absolutely no control over the stadium, and cannot carry out any work or improvements. This mode of operation is quite penalizing for a club. This occupancy agreement has just been renegotiated with a rent of 1.6 million euros from January 2020. In return for the increase in rent, TFC benefits from a little more freedom, as the latter enjoys quasi-exclusivity over the Stadium and will be the sole manager of the refreshment stands (including during events other than its matches), but is faced with a commercial operation framed by the town hall, with in particular the obligation to allow the Stade Toulousain Rugby to organize 6 matches per season.

Lille Olympique Sporting Club (LOSC):

LOSC now plays at Lille’s Pierre Mauroy stadium, which belongs to the local authority. What’s special here is that the stadium was built as part of a public-private partnership (PPP) to host Euro 2016 in France. Under a PPP, the financing of the stadium’s construction is both public and private. On the other hand, it gives rise to an agreement between the local authority and a private party who will benefit from operating the stadium. In the case of the Stade Pierre Maurois, the PPP was signed with Eiffage, which now operates the stadium.

For LOSC, the situation is quite similar to that of TFC, with the difference that the interlocutor and co-contractor is not the local authority but a private party. In practice, however, the consequences are similar: LOSC cannot freely enjoy its stadium, and does not receive all the benefits. This model is becoming increasingly common, as in Nice’s Alliance Riviera and Bordeaux’s Matmut Stadium.

Olympique de Marseille (OM):

As part of the renovation of the Stade Vélodrome, the city of Marseille signed a PPP with AREMA, a subsidiary of the BOUYGUES group. This was a classic PPP, as in the case of LOSC, where AREMA was entrusted with the management of the Stade Vélodrome, and then leased the stadium to the OM. The system was very cumbersome, as the OM found itself in the position of a temporary tenant for the duration of the match, and had to hand back the keys after the match.

With the arrival of the new management team and the new owner of the OM, the management of the Stade Vélodrome was at the heart of the discussions. Thanks to the support of Marseille town council, the OM succeeded in removing AREMA from the commercial operation of the stadium. In other words, despite the existence of the PPP managed by AREMA, the OM is now the sole commercial operator of its stadium and, above all, the only one to reap its profits. In return, it pays rent to AREMA, but remains the sole owner. Thanks to this system, OM’s management of the Stade Vélodrome is very similar to the emphyteutic lease concluded by the PSG for the Parc des Princes. The OM now derives a real source of revenue from the operation of the Stade Vélodrome.

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