Can the Girondins survive a descent into Ligue 2?

Gérard Lopez answered without hesitation whether he personally believed that his team was already in Ligue 2 (0-1) after their new defeat to OGC Nice. The owner and chairman of the Girondins de Bordeaux therefore still wants to “believe in” just like his coach David Guion. At the same time, they can’t say anything else for the time being as it is still mathematically possible with four and six points behind the play-off (Saint-Etienne) and the first non-relegation player (Clermont) three days before the end of the season. That’s for the official version.

But in reality, behind the scenes like in the stands of the Matmut Atlantique, hardly anyone believes it anymore. You had to see the resignation of a number of supporters this Sunday afternoon. As if everyone understood and finally just waited for the verdict after a season in hell. “I am sad”, confesses a Gérard Lopez dejectedly to the press. Today there is clearly only one miracle that can save the Marine et Blancs from a descent into Ligue 2, 30 years after the last. With a question in the background: can the Girondins survive a relegation financially?

Gérard Lopez really on an ejection seat?

A few months ago, the answer was no. It was either maintenance or bankruptcy and a descent to N3. Even general manager Thomas Jacquemier had admitted this publicly: “There is no life in Ligue 2 for the Girondins”! Since then, the discourse has become a little less radical in the corridors of the Château du Haillan. “It’s not completely unfeasible. There is an opportunity to prepare a business plan, even if the planets will have to align,” says a person close to the board. That same person goes even further: “Sportingly it’s a disaster, of course, but it costs so much money to stay in Ligue 1 that maybe it’s, I say maybe, the right time to go down and go all the way in the restructuring of the club “Starting from scratch like neighboring Toulouse and hoping for an immediate comeback.

It would still be necessary for Gérard Lopez to keep the club under control. If he reaffirmed this Sunday that he would “still be there in the event of a descent”, the Hispano-Luxembourg businessman is not in control. He may be co-owner of the club in the scapular, but he remains at the mercy of his creditors, King Street and Fortress, as in Lille, recently stated. South West. Notably, the two US investment funds agreed to lend him money during the club takeover last summer to bail him out and reduce his previous debts. It is definitely not neutral. But as the Bordeaux president’s entourage points out, “they have no interest in that” [écarter Gérard Lopez] and it’s not the same situation as at Losc where Elliott wanted to buy the club. Despite the arrival of a new fund, Merlyn Partners, when Gérard Lopez left Lille, Elliott would also remain very present in the Dogues structure, as explained The team.

In Bordeaux, King Street and Fortress would therefore not be in this process. It remains to be seen whether the two funds can eventually drop the case and withdraw in the event of a descent into Ligue 2? There is a clause that provides in particular for an accelerated repayment of their debts in the event of demotion. But even there, relatives of Lopez say that creditors have no interest in this. On the one hand, they would never get their money back and have already lost a lot of it since their arrival in the club’s capital in 2018. On the other hand, Fortress, a recognized fund, is said to be very concerned about his image unlike King Street. The leaders do not want to be responsible for the disappearance of one of the biggest French clubs. This is one of the reasons why they agreed to put their hands in their pockets a few months ago.

A gap to close from 40 to 45 million euros

Once we’ve said that, we’ll still need to get around the round table to get back to Ligue 2. Little good news in this slump, the Girondins have no tax and social security debt, which is rare for a company in major financial difficulty . Nevertheless, it will be necessary to close a gap of 40 to 45 million euros on a descent according to information from 20 minutes. To achieve this, the teams of Thomas Jacquemier and Gérard Lopez have already been meeting for a few weeks. They plan to play on four levers to make ends meet: financial debt, transfers, the internal reorganization of the club and the “help” of the LFP (Professional Football League). First, management hopes to “rework” it with its creditors, most notably by postponing certain financial deadlines. At this stage, there have been no concrete discussions with Fortress and King Street.

As for the transfer window, it has already been indicated to Admar Lopez, the sports director of the Girondins, that he must sell for at least 20 million euros next summer. And again, that’s a low estimate. It’s both a little and a lot when reading the Bordeaux season. For internal reorganization, it is actually a social plan that does not say its name. We’d be talking over a hundred layoffs within a completely oversized club (nearly 300 employees) over a decade compared to sports results.

Admar Lopes, the technical director of the Girondins de Bordeaux.
Admar Lopes, the technical director of the Girondins de Bordeaux. – Q. Salinier / Girondins de Bordeaux

Finally, the Girondins will receive 7 million euros in support from the LFP to compensate for the fall in income during a descent and a check for 16.5 million euros on the occasion of the arrival of the CVC investment fund. in French football. Moreover, we do not hide it with Haillan, “it is thanks to this money that we can develop a plan for Ligue 2, otherwise it would certainly have been mission impossible”. As last important data to take into account at this stage, this “Ligue 2 plan” does not depend on the arrival of new investors in the capital of the club. If Gérard Lopez continues to talk with potential future partners, he would not need them for the time being to complete his round of funding.

Too early to talk about the athlete

On a sporting level, it is still the big blur. It is very difficult to guess the contours of the workforce on a descent. Many players have arrived this season and many have been loaned out. Some have almost mandatory options like Mangas or Mensah, while others have Ligue 2 clauses in their contract (Guilavogui, Marcelo or Ahmehdozic). There are also “small” market values ​​such as Elis, Hwang, Onana or even Oudin that are sure to pack their bags to replenish the Girondins’ treasury.

As a reminder, the club has the right to collectively reduce the wages of its players by 20% in case of relegation. He can even offer an even bigger discount to certain players depending on their salary. In this case, the latter can refuse and then be released in their contract. Meanwhile, the Girondins are still in Ligue 1 this Monday morning. And before hoping for a financial miracle, another sporting miracle is possible.