Dunces of the elite this season, Metz and Bordeaux have just fallen in Ligue 2. A descent and its financial consequences are very often synonymous with big trouble, but certain reflexes allow you to get up quickly. Short course of relegation well negotiated with Fabrice Bocquet, former general manager of FC Lorient (2015-2020) and author of The important thing is the three points (Amphora).
The two cases have nothing to do. Metz is a club that is more than used to going up and down. It is struggling to stabilize, despite the many investments of its president. Nevertheless, the vision of the leaders seems clear on the long term. For Bordeaux, it’s different. It’s a very big city in France, so we can think that the FCGB has a lot of assets to go up quickly. However, his finances and the management of the workforce leave great doubts. As I always say: a club does not die of a descent, but of a bad financial situation. However, if this situation is healthy, the Girondins will have a much higher strike force than the other teams in the division.
10 – Metz are directly relegated to Ligue 2. This is the 10th time that the Lorraine club have descended to the 2nd division, equaling Strasbourg as the most often relegated club in the history of Ligue 1. Elevator. #PSGFCM pic.twitter.com/8IetLuUHTU
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) May 21, 2022
The best way to negotiate relegation well, wouldn’t it be to anticipate it?
If because, despite a good season in Ligue 1, we are never safe from the next one being more delicate. With Lorient, we had been rather successful in 2015-2016 (fifteenth in the league without ever being in danger, semi-finalists of the Coupe de France, editor’s note), but the following year, we went down. Everything remains fragile, and the role of a leader is precisely to anticipate hard knocks. Without this, we run the risk of getting hit hard in the back of the head.
“I don’t know if the Bordeaux leaders 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, rely on your training center and ensure you have a flexible cost structure. For example, when you have a player sign a contract in Ligue 1, it is better to also indicate a Ligue 2 salary, which he would receive in the event of a descent. This allows for greater payroll flexibility. This is very important, to reduce costs and avoid being in difficulty on the transfer market. I don’t know if the Bordeaux leaders have provided for Ligue 2 salaries in their contracts, but if they haven’t, they will find themselves in a very complicated accounting situation. With a wage bill that makes your finances bloodless, you are indeed forced to part ways with certain players at all costs and you appear to be in a weak position in the negotiations. Under these conditions, it is impossible to maximize what you would like to obtain.
The relegated clubs recover several million euros as aid to the descent. Should we bet everything on competitive recruitment or opt for longer-term investments?
The correct answer lies between the two. When a club goes down, we can understand that it wants to go up quickly. Moreover, statistics show that it is in the first year that we have the best chance of achieving this. On the other hand, we run a real financial risk by trying at all costs to go up immediately. Already because there is always uncertainty in sport and even in the event of a promotion, if you put the rope around your neck, you will find yourself in the red financially at the higher level. This is what happened with Lens, promoted in 2014, but banned from recruitment. It’s okay to use some downhill assistance to try to be competitive, but it’s better to accept a longer time, to give yourself a few extra years to straighten the bar.
Bernard Serin, the Messin president.
Let’s come to the constitution of the post-relegation squad. How to convince players who are cautious about playing in Ligue 2 to stay? Holding them against their will can be harmful 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 complicated, because he was no longer in the right state of mind, which is understandable. Converselysome agree to stay an additional season when they would have preferred to play in Ligue 1. In an ideal world, it is better to have a group fully concerned with its experience in Ligue 2 rather than in a spirit of regret.
“You have to take advantage of relegation to press a ‘Reset’ button and work on reducing the workforce. »
In your book, you insist on the need to rely on a small group to be effective. Does the descent represent an ideal opportunity to slim down the workforce?
Often, when the results do not follow, we try to compensate for the winter transfer window. On arrival, we find ourselves with a group affected by the descent and by frustration, because many players did not have the expected playing time. We must therefore take advantage of this moment to press a “Reset” button and work on reducing the workforce. At FC Lorient, we had around 35 players when we went down. It took us two years to balance all that and get down to 24-25 players. It can’t be done with the snap of a finger, but it’s essential. There is more quality, more room for young people, fewer moods and less risk of dispersing for the coach.
If they remain in post, Gérard Lopez and Admar Lopes will have a job in Bordeaux during the summer.
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 those which one establishes before seeing all these emotions arrive. This is essential to ensure that there is a perfect alignment of governance, from the president to the coach, including the recruitment unit and the sports director. If we are not completely aligned, we risk making mistakes in the heat of the moment, lacking responsiveness, or wanting to secure a player by default. Being well organized makes it possible to anticipate these situations. A good transfer window therefore requires a very clear roadmap prepared in advance.
“We have to create the conditions to allow young people to have their chance. Otherwise, it’s almost heresy. » Fabrice Bocquet
What place should a relegated club give to its academy?
It is clearly an element to privilege, but the economic equation is not simple. Out of a budget of ten-fifteen million euros, a quality training center may require three million euros. Saving money at the center level is complicated. This is why we must create the conditions to allow young people to have their chance. Otherwise, it’s almost heresy. This is a major strategic issue.
Sékou Mara, nugget of the Girondin training center and rare satisfaction of the season.
Let’s talk about the bench now. Which coach profile should be favored to aim for the climb?
We have found that the clubs that move up quickly in Ligue 1 rely either on coaches who have already experienced promotions, such as Jean-Marc Furlan, Christophe Pélissier, Philippe Montanier or Antoine Kombouaré, or on coaches from the club or training , such as Bernard Blaquart or David Guion. But there is not only one truth and it is necessary to reason in the following way: what are your needs? What are you researching ? It can be very different from one club to another, so you have to adapt.
Mickaël Landreau was a novice in 2017, and yet he was the one you chose after being relegated. Wasn’t this choice too risky?
It was daring, yes. But it made sense, because Mickaël had a fairly strong club project, with a desire to rely on young people. It fit what we were looking for. The question was whether we wanted to go back at all costs or if we wanted to first put in place a solid foundation. There was an alignment on this second option. Unfortunately, the climb narrowly escaped us. When he arrived, Christophe (Pélissier, who succeeded Landreau in 2019, Ed) however realized that the foundations were very good.
Mickaël Landreau, FCL era.
Next season, four teams will be relegated. Should we expect to see clubs spending lavishly during the summer?
As Jacques Rousselot said: “In every Ligue 1 club lies a Ligue 2 club.” For PSG, Marseille and Lyon, this maxim does not really apply, but almost everyone else will be afraid to go down. Except that when we are guided by fear, we commit silly things, especially during the transfer window. We favor a potential immediate impact, even if it means endangering our project over time. For me, it is necessary to avoid that the money paid by CVC (the investment fund that will bring 1.5 billion euros to the League and the clubs, Ed) be injected mainly into transfers and salaries, for fear of the four descents. Strategically, for all of French football, it would be a mistake.
Interview by Raphaël Brosse