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will the economic behemoths Saint-Etienne and Bordeaux crush the championship?

At the twilight of an incredible soap opera, the Girondins de Bordeaux have obtained the right to play in Ligue 2 next season. Their presence in this division, combined with that of Saint-Etienne – on the bill for the first match of the season in Dijon, Saturday July 30 – attracts curiosity. Between them, these historic French footballers have won sixteen French championship titles and two European finals. Even relegated, the structures of these two clubs, which have played in Europe for the last four seasons, make them behemoths of a Ligue 2 in which the inequalities between clubs are significant.

Due to the various legal episodes, it is difficult to estimate the state of Bordeaux’s finances. Saint-Etienne has, for its part, announced a budget of 30 million euros. It will be the most important of the championship. “But it’s not necessarily extraordinarynuance Luc Arrondel, director of research at the CNRS and specialist in football economics. When Toulouse went down in 2020-21, they had 26 million euros.”

Data still well above the Ligue 2 average, estimated at 10 million euros. “The clubs that go down have substantial budgets, because they still receive Ligue 1 TV rights”, continues the economist. Because of their exposure and their popularity, Saint-Etienne and Bordeaux should garner a much larger jackpot than the L2 clubs. In 2020-21, they were 8th and 9th in the elite “TV rights ranking”, receiving more than 20 million euros as a result.

Above all, a new fact, the relegated clubs will receive several million euros thanks to the agreements between the LFP and the CVC investment fund, even if the exact amount has not been communicated. Metz, 19th in Ligue 1 last year, is also concerned. In comparison, the teams already in Ligue 2 last year will collect … six times less. “These commercial rights create chasms, while we are fighting to have a difficult eight million budget”, says Didier Tholot, coach of Pau FC, 10th last year. The Béarn club will again present one of the smallest budgets in the championship.

But, even significant, these differences are not irremediable. “They are much less important than in Ligue 1notes the economist Luc Arrondel. That’s why there are surprises, like Nancy, relegated with a big budget last year.” The following graph shows it: in Ligue 2, over the 2020-21 season, sporting and economic were not always linked. Second budget of the championship, Caen had narrowly saved its skin, while Clermont had gone up with the fifteenth budget.

The final Ligue 2 ranking on the ordinate, compared to the budget ranking on the abscissa, for the 2020-21 season.  The closer a club is to the diagonal, the more its final ranking reflects its budget.  (DNCG (screenshot))

“In Ligue 2, we can do things not too badly with a small budget”abounds Didier Tholot. Conversely, presented as the “PSG of L2” with recruits of choice, Dijon played the maintenance last year. The DFCO will be revengeful, like a handful of once disappointed outsiders.

“Caen has ambition, Paris FC has missed the climb twice in a row, Sochaux is structured, Guingamp wants to make a big championship… Fewer and fewer teams are playing so as not to go down.”

Didier Tholot, coach of Pau FC

at franceinfo: sport

Even ambitious, these clubs have a budget much lower than that of ASSE. Contacted, FC Metz did not answer us on this subject. This does not prevent the relegated clubs from keeping a low profile despite their means. The situation is very uncertain for Bordeaux, whose recruitment remain suspended at a passage in front of the DNCG. “It’s a very long and homogeneous championship, everyone can beat everyone there”, Saint-Etienne coach Laurent Batlles humbly declared at a press conference. Christophe Delmotte, Messin deputy, described this division as “very difficult”.

Les Grenats are nevertheless specialists in ascent operations. In 2015-16 and 2018-19, they returned to the top flight the year after their descent. But this case remains isolated: over the last ten seasons, only Troyes has also succeeded. The immediate recovery ratio, around 12%, is starving. On average, relegated clubs have been chomping at the bit for three years before returning to the top flight. 45% of the teams descended over the last decade have no longer tasted Ligue 1.

Nantes, Lens and Monaco are among the big teams that have recently fallen into Ligue 2. They played there together in 2012-13. Their fame and popularity then aroused a certain enthusiasm when they moved. Modest teams like Istres and Niort had recorded their best attendance there, when 10,000 souls rushed into the Touraine enclosure against Monaco.

Will an identical phenomenon be observed this season? “You are going to play sold out against Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne, but it’s one game per season”tempers the economist Luc Arrondel, not convinced that a “runoff” is taking place. “On the other hand, it risks being more visiblehe adds. It may be easier to negotiate TV rights and to have commercial income.”

This “premiumization” of Ligue 2 is, in any case, part to anchor. With four exceptional runs this season in L1, it is not foolish to imagine that a new cador falls. When the antechamber will oppose 18 clubs, from the 2023-24 season, there will be even less room for the small teams. Caen coach Stéphane Moulin even sees a “Ligue 1bis”in an interview for the specialized site My League 2. Despite the economic differences, the slew of contenders combined with the two dry places for the elite will make the soap opera exciting.

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