The Girondins de Bordeaux continue their descent into hell. A month and a half after being relegated from Ligue 1 to Ligue 2 – the first in thirty-one years – the football club experienced a new shock on Tuesday July 5: the appeal committee of the National Directorate of Control de gestion (DNCG), the financial policeman of French football, has confirmed his administrative demotion to National 1, the Third Division (amateur level).
This demotion was pronounced on June 14 by the DNCG, the financial guarantees presented by the club not being considered sufficient. But among the Girondins, who had appealed, relative optimism was expressed in recent days before the meeting held on Tuesday afternoon at the headquarters of the French Football Federation (FFF), in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.
The club’s president for a year, Gérard Lopez, had hinted that he had found guarantees to plug the hole of 40 million euros pinned by the DNCG. “The club and its shareholder have presented a project considered by all professionals to be solid and which responds point by point to the expectations expressed by the commission in the first instance”clarified the Girondins in a press release published after the decision.
Gérard Lopez had undertaken to inject ten million euros into the capital through his company Jogo Bonito and to transfer to it half of the club’s debt, amounting to 52 million euros. The Girondins had also obtained from their creditors, the investment funds King Street and Fortress, to recover the profit-sharing on the transfer of Aurélien Tchouaméni to Real Madrid, valued at more than eight million euros.
Gérard Lopez ready to “fight to the end”
Several local players had also made efforts, like Bordeaux Métropole, which had agreed to spread the club’s debt of more than five million euros for the rental of the Matmut-Atlantique stadium over the next two seasons.
The club’s management also wanted to bail out, selling several players (Hwang Ui-jo, Junior Onana, Alberth Elis, Sékou Mara), whose cumulative market value could bring in several tens of millions of euros.
All these elements did not convince the DNCG. “This unjust decision is unacceptable and incomprehensible. I say it very clearly this evening to the supporters, to the people of Bordeaux and to all those who have marine and white blood: I will fight until the end.said Gérard Lopez, who added that he wanted “to appeal against this iniquitous decision”.
The objective is to avoid filing for bankruptcy. The leader of the Girondins knows it: the revenue that the club can hope for in the third level of French football will not allow it to ensure its daily operation. The Girondins will lose professional status and will have to do without the television rights associated with a presence in Ligue 1 or Ligue 2.
The appeal will first be lodged with the French National and Olympic Sports Committee (CNOSF), which can overturn the decision of the appeal committee. The FFF is not obliged to follow the CNOSF recommendation. If the administrative demotion is maintained, the Girondins may then turn to the urgent applications judge of the Administrative Court in order to suspend the decision, before attempting to have it annulled.
An inevitable bankruptcy filing?
In the event of bankruptcy, the Girondins will have to restart in National 3, at the fifth level of French football. A disaster for the club founded in 1881, six times champion of France and which had professional status continuously since 1937.
Many departures of players are to be expected within a workforce initially cut for Ligue 1. The question of the takeover of the club could also arise, while its fall risks having “disastrous consequences for the entire local ecosystem”as he himself underlined in his press release.
The subject alerted the opposition elected officials at the level of Bordeaux Métropole: the group La République en Marche has asked for a “emergency meeting, bringing together all the club’s stakeholders and the city’s elected officials to assess the future impacts for the community”while wishing “to determine all the responsibilities of such a shipwreck”.
For several seasons, the Girondins, champion of France for the last time in 2009 and whose last trophy dates back to 2013 with the Coupe de France, were on a downward slope. The sale of the club in 2018 by the M6 group and the passage under the American flag, without a clear sports project being established, completed the downgrading of the Bordeaux club within the hierarchy of French football.
A man risks crystallizing the tensions: Gérard Lopez. The Hispano-Luxembourgish businessman multiplies the disappointments in the clubs he has passed through (Lille, Boavista, Mouscron). He had however been optimistic in the summer of 2021 when he had managed to convince the DNCG of the merits of his plan to take over the Girondins de Bordeaux. “It’s a great day for the Girondins and we are now going to get down to implementing the validated sporting and economic project [par la DNCG] », he then assured.
Today is amazement in Bordeaux. Historical club of French football, the Girondins will have to rebuild in depth to survive and hope, one day, to find the elite.