"A club does not die of relegation, but of a bad economic situation"

“A club does not die of relegation, but of a bad economic situation”

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Dukes of the elite this season, Metz and Bordeaux have just fallen out of Ligue 2. Relegation and its economic consequences are often synonymous with big problems, but certain reflexes allow you to get up quickly. Short well-negotiated relegation course with Fabrice Bocquet, former CEO of FC Lorient (2015-2020) and author of The important thing is the three points. (Amphora).

Waiting to know the outcome of the barrage, we already know that Metz and Bordeaux will play Ligue 2 next season. Are you optimistic about his ability to bounce back quickly?
The two cases have nothing to do with each other. Metz is a club that is more than used to going up and down. It is struggling to stabilize itself, despite many investments from its president. However, the vision of the leaders seems clear in the long term. For Bordeaux, it is different. It is a very big city in France, so we can think that the FCGB has many assets to rise quickly. However, his finances and the management of the squad leave great doubts. As I always say: a club does not die of relegation, but of a bad economic situation. However, if this situation is healthy, the Girondins will have a much larger attacking force than the other teams in the division.

The best way to negotiate the descent well, wouldn’t it be to anticipate it?
Yes, because, despite a good season in Ligue 1, we are never sure that the next one will be more delicate. With Lorient, we were quite successful in 2015-2016 (15th in the league without ever being in danger, semi-finalists in the Coupe de France, editor’s note), but the following year we went down. Everything is still fragile, and the role of a leader is precisely to anticipate hard blows. Without this, we run the risk of receiving a strong blow to the back of the head.

“I don’t know if the Bordeaux managers have provided for Ligue 2 salaries in their contracts, but if they haven’t, they will find themselves in a very complicated accounting situation. »

How to do it, concretely?
There are three levers: take advantage of your years at the highest level to develop your assets, such as the training center or the stadium, trust your training center and make sure you have a flexible cost structure. For example, when you have a player who signs a contract in Ligue 1, it is better to also indicate a Ligue 2 salary, which he would receive in the event of relegation. This allows for greater flexibility in payroll. This is very important, to reduce costs and avoid difficulties in the transfer market. I don’t know if the Bordeaux managers have provided for Ligue 2 salaries in their contracts, but if they haven’t, they will find themselves in a very difficult accounting situation. With a wage bill that makes his finances bloodless, he is indeed forced to part ways with certain players at all costs and appears to be in a weak position in negotiations. Under these conditions, it is impossible to maximize what you would like to get.

The relegated clubs recover several million euros as relegation aid. Should we go all out on competitive hiring or go for longer-term investments?
The correct answer lies between the two. When a club goes down, we can understand that they want to go up fast. Also, the statistics show that it is in the first year that we have the best chance of achieving it. On the other hand, we take a real financial risk by trying at all costs to go up immediately. Already because there is always uncertainty in the sport and even in case of a promotion, if you put the rope around your neck, you will find yourself in the red financially at the top level. This is what happened with Lens, promoted in 2014, but banned from hiring. It’s fine to use a little help downhill to try to be competitive, but it’s better to accept a longer time, to give yourself a few more years to set the bar straight.

Let’s move on to the constitution of the post-relegation squad. How do you convince players who are wary of playing in Ligue 2 to stay? Holding them against their will can be detrimental to everyone.
Indeed. We had also experienced it with Majeed Waris, who stayed with us in Ligue 2 for the first six months, and it had been very difficult, because he was no longer in the right frame of mind, which is understandable. Unlikesome agree to stay one more season when they would have preferred to play in Ligue 1. In an ideal world, it is better to have a group wholly concerned about their experience in Ligue 2 than in a spirit of regret.

“You have to take advantage of the relegation to press a ‘Reset’ button and work on reducing the workforce. »

In his book, he insists on the need to have a small group to be effective. Does relegation represent an ideal opportunity to slim down the squad?
Often when results don’t follow, we try to make up for the winter transfer window. Upon arrival we found a group affected by relegation and frustration, because many players did not have the expected playing time. Therefore, we must take advantage of this moment to press a “Reset” button and work on reducing the template. At FC Lorient, we had around 35 players when we fell. It took us two years to balance all of that and get to 24-25 players. It can’t be done with a snap of the fingers, but it is essential. There is more quality, more room for the youngsters, less moods and less risk of dispersion for the coach.

You used to prepare a roadmap for the transfer window as early as May. Why is this so important?
There are a lot of emotions during a transfer window. However, the best plans are the ones you make before you see all these emotions arrive. This is essential to ensure that there is a perfect governance alignment, from the president to the coach, through the recruiting unit and the athletic director. If we’re not fully aligned, we run the risk of making mistakes in the heat of the moment, lacking responsiveness, or wanting to secure a default player. Being well organized allows you to anticipate these situations. Therefore, a good transfer window requires a very clear roadmap prepared in advance.

“We have to create the conditions so that young people have their opportunity. Otherwise, it is almost heresy. » Fabrice Bocquet

What place should a relegated club give to its academy?
It is clearly an element to be privileged, but the economic equation is not simple. From a budget of ten to fifteen million euros, a quality training center may require three million euros. Saving money at the center level is complicated. That is why we must create the conditions so that young people have their opportunity. Otherwise, it is almost heresy. This is an important strategic issue.

Now let’s talk about the bank. What coach profile should be favored to target climbing?
We have found that fast-rising clubs in Ligue 1 trust coaches who have already experienced promotion, such as Jean-Marc Furlan, Christophe Pélissier, Philippe Montanier or Antoine Kombouaré, or coaches from the club or the formation, such as Bernard Blaquart or David Guion. But there is no single truth and it is necessary to reason in the following way: what are your needs? What are you investigating? It can be very different from one club to another, so you have to adapt.

Mickaël Landreau was a rookie in 2017 and yet he was chosen after relegation. Wasn’t this choice too risky?
It was daring, yes. But it made sense, because Mickaël had a pretty strong club project, wanting to lean on the youngsters. He fit what we were looking for. The question was whether we wanted to come back at all costs or whether we wanted to lay a solid foundation first. There was a lineup about this second option. Unfortunately, the climb narrowly escaped us. When Christophe arrived (Pélissier, who succeeded Landreau in 2019, Ed) however, he realized that the foundations were very good.

Next season, four teams will be relegated. Should we expect to see clubs spending lavishly over the summer?
As Jacques Rousselot said: “In every Ligue 1 club there is a Ligue 2 club.” For PSG, Marseille and Lyon, this maxim does not really apply, but almost everyone else will be afraid of falling. Except that when we are guided by fear, we do foolish things, especially during the transfer window. We favor a potential immediate impact, even if it means putting our project at risk over time. For me it is necessary to avoid that the money paid by CVC (the investment fund that will contribute 1,500 million euros to the League and the clubs, Ed) It will be injected mainly in signings and salaries, for fear of the four drops. Strategically, for all of French football, it would be a mistake.

Interview with Raphaël Brosse

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