As the famous stadium in Nantes celebrates its 34th birthday, the fan association A La Beaujoire releases a very poignant statement, calling the finishing public consultation process a farse.
If you don't allow discussion on any alternatives, you present a complete design before the end of the consultation period and detailed conditions of the city's partnership with private investors remain unclear throughout, can you still call it a public consultation or claim transparency? This, in short, is the conclusion of a lengthy statement released by A La Nantaise, association of FC Nantes fans opposed to the YelloPark project.
While it's officially described as 'preliminary consultation' (concertation préalable), almost all features of the proposed new stadium really seem to be in place and not up for debate. Even more, against declaration by the mayor of Nantes Métropole Johanna Rolande, any debate on alternatives to a new stadium was ruled out already during the first consultation meeting and the issue was never taken up again.
It didn't help at all that the existing stadium's architect was willing to contribute and claims redevelopment of La Beaujoire is perfectly feasible. You can only imagine how this infuriated more conservative fans from Tribune Loire, who had already stood behind redevelopment of the existing stadium.
In the A La Nantaise statement we find supposed personal connections between high-ranking officials and the private project, but we cannot confirm or deny any of them so we are not diving into this part. However, it's worth mentioning that participants of the public consultation, which is about to end in just a week (May 16), have not been informed of the conditions on which the extremely lucrative piece of land would be transferred to private ownership.
The latter issue is part of a much larger problem: lack of trust in elected officials' goodwill. The case dates back to 2000, when decision was made to transfer FC Nantes to private group Socpresse, with no guarantee over the club's future operations. Events since then had many critics and the club's management under Polish owner Waldemar Kita has been widely scrutinised.
As things stand, Stade de la Beaujoire is one of very few certainties for FC Nantes fans and clearly they're afraid to lose it. If transferred to private owners and demolished, it would mean FCN are forced to play by the rules imposed by the developer Realites and Kita himself. Brigade Loire and A La Nantaise, among other groups, are concerned that the private owners might work in their best interest, not in the club's. There have been numerous cases in France showing how private management of a stadium can be far from optimal (not to use the word harmful) to the tenant club.
As the consultation process is ending, we can only expect that its conclusions next week will basically mean a green light for the development, which wasn't actually consulted before having been prepared and presented at the ready.