France: Orange Vélodrome for sale?!

source: [KT]; author: Karol

France: Orange Vélodrome for sale?! What is the future of the Orange Vélodrome after the mayor’s announcement? According to that statement, he wants to sell the Vélodrome because of its high cost for the municipality. Other officials confirm.


Too expensive for the municipality

After the presentation of an audit highlighting the “catastrophic” financial situation of the city, mayor Benoît Payan declared the willingness to sell the Orange Vélodrome, the biggest venue within all in Ligue 1 Uber Eats. Payan demonstrates that operating the stadium is no longer financially viable for the city. Finding a buyer seems to be a good solution to ease the burden of the city's finances.

I want to sell the stadium because it costs us too much. I want to sell it because it is  financial mismanagement, Payan explained during the interview on Facebook. 

Orange Velodrome, Marseille© Youn Hamelat

The city owns the stadium, while Olympique de Marseille (OM) pays around €5 million ($6.02 million) per year for the venue’s rental. In November 2020, the regional chamber of accounts estimated, preparing the report about the management of the city, that the rent paid to the city was too low. It would have to increase to €8 million per year at least, summary recommends. They also denounced the €52.2 million subsidies paid between 2012 and 2017.

Marseille mayor’s announcement has now been confirmed by Samia Ghali, mayor of Marseille’s 8th sector and the official in charge of the stadium file. If we sell the stadium, from my point of view, it should only be sold to the owner of Olympique de Marseille with a clause which simply says that the stadium cannot be sold separately, Ghali assured during her interview for Europe1. The supporters must also keep their place. The sale will be done in a calm manner, above all, we must not rush, I want us to look at everything.

Dark clouds over the OM

The declaration of the mayor of Marseille comes in the middle of a serious crisis at OM. Just within the last few days the club received negative news in the form of the coach's dismissal. Portuguese coach André Villas-Boas has left the ship in a stormy sea.

Orange Velodrome, Marseille© SCAU

Additionally, OM supporters have shown directly what they thought about the club’s strategy and management. Hundreds of angry “fans” broke into the club's training ground and caused widespread damage in protest. The hardcore Ultras, who were demonstrating against the club leadership and the team's poor run recently, gathered in front of Marseille's La Commanderie training ground, throwing smoke bombs and firecrackers. Marseille postponed the match after violent behavior.

If that was not enough, French football finds itself in an unsafe financial position. Economic stability has been affected when the Spanish agency Mediapro was forced to end its four-year contract, as we reported recently. After the 2019/20 season was canceled with a few games still to play, the Professional Football League (LFP) moved to take out a €120 million ($147 million) bank loan to cover missed payments to clubs. A €224 million ($275 million) government help was also secured last May.

LFP has temporarily resolved its domestic broadcast problems by agreeing on a deal for Canal+ to show Ligue 1 Uber Eats and Ligue 2 BKT matches for the rest of the 2020/21 season. In comparison to the previous agreement, the incomes decrease by 49% regarding Ligue 1 and by 40% towards Ligue 2.

Rich history of the 67,000-seater

Inaugurated in 1937 in front of more than 30,000 spectators, the Vélodrome designed by the architect Henri Ploquin is associated with the best sports hours in Marseille. Initially designed to accommodate 35,000 people, the venue underwent several extensions during the 20th century. The most significant change remains the one preceding the 1998 FIFA World Cup, with the stadium increasing its capacity to 60,000 seats.

Orange Velodrome, Marseille© Mathieu

History of the arena in Marseille entered a new chapter with the reconfiguration delivered in 2014. When deciding to rebuild the famous Vélodrome in Marseille ahead of the UEFA EURO 2016, three main criteria were taken into account: covering all spectators, creating additional corporate seats and capacity increase. A venue finally achieved 67,000 places. Since June 2016, the venue is called Orange Vélodrome, after Arema (stadium operator) and Orange has signed a naming rights contract for a period of 10 years. 

Internationally recognized for hosting the matches of the Olympique de Marseille, the stadium was one of the venues of the UEFA EURO 2016, hosting four group-stage games, one match of quarter-finals and one semi-final. That time, all matches have brought a high 92.2% average attendance compared to the tournament occupancy at 91.7%. The organizing committee for the 2024 Olympics in Paris has confirmed that seven cities will host the football competitions, with a Orange Velodrome on the list. Orange Vélodrome is the biggest venue within all ones in Ligue 1 Uber Eats.

Author: Karol Tatar