Football, a popular sport except for presidential candidates

Project of a dissident Super League from the Champions League, the vagaries of reliance on television rights, violence in stadiums… If football often makes headlines, and not just because of the sporting aspect, it is missing in the presidential campaign.

Before presenting their programs for sports, Thursday, March 17 at the Maison du sport français in Paris, none of the candidates for the Elysée Palace has yet spoken about the economic and social issues related to the round ball, be it its professional-spectacular sports aspect or, even less, the popular sports side par excellence, practiced by two million licensees in France.

“During the research for our book, we felt it was necessary for many politicians to appear as someone with at least a vague knowledge of football. On the other hand, many have only a very distant view of football and its extra-sporting problems.explain Jean-Baptiste Guégan and Clément Pernia, authors of The Republic of Football(Amphora, 200 pages) to be published on March 31.

This specialist in the geopolitics of sports and this journalist were interested in the candidates for the presidential elections. “Many want to be people. But not talking about the most popular sport at all is rather ambivalent. At the National Rally [RN] and to La France insoumise [LFI]it is other members of the party who are pushing the candidates to broach the subject, such as Eric Coquerel with Jean-Luc Mélenchon”emphasizes Clement Pernia.

See the comparator: Compare the programs of the most important candidates

“Using football for buzz”

Politicians’ attention to football, if it exists, is often primarily a strategy of display and potential image gain. A “recovery” that can be tricky. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, for example, had posed at the Stade-Vélodrome in 2018 by a “go around” on Twitter, while stating at the microphone of the “Quotidien” program on TMC some time earlier: “If there’s one man in the whole country who doesn’t care about football, it’s me.”

The sanction generally does not delay: “Those who try to bring about political recovery are not forgiven by the supporters, who accuse them of instrumentalizing their club,” he said. observe Jean-Baptiste Guégan and Clément Pernia.

The current affairs of football in its controversial dimension is also an easy source of buzz for politicians. “Mostly French political representatives use football for buzz, without any real political vision behind it”comment the two authors of The Republic of Football.

For example, they recall that Eric Zemmour had explained that the violence in the Charléty stadium between supporters of Paris FC and Olympique Lyonnais, on December 17, 2021 during a Coupe de France match, was provoked by a company “excessively multicultural”

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The far-right candidate like that of the Greens, Yannick Jadot, is among the rare contenders for the Elysée who follow football news. Without turning it into a campaign argument. “Jadot loves football, but the Greens don’t talk about it because it doesn’t match the vision they have of themselves or the vision they have of their constituents.”, explain MM. Pernia and Guegan.

As for the leader of Reconquête!, he is, according to the two authors of the book, nostalgic for football of the past: “He is someone who loved football, but today it doesn’t interest him and you can see that in his program. His vision of tomorrow’s football is the football of the past.”

“Speaking to a Popular France”

Outgoing President Emmanuel Macron’s support for Olympique de Marseille is no secret. A sincere and strategic support, Jean-Baptiste Guégan assures: “OM is a good way for him to differentiate himself from PSG and its image of ‘president of the rich’. He has a real love for this club, but he also knows that it allows him to talk to another, more popular France. †

Knowing that he could derive political benefits from his passion, the host of the Elysée did not hesitate to put on his crampons in October 2021 for a charity contest with the Variétés Club de France, in memory of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s contest in Chamalières (Puy-de-Dôme) in 1973.

However, football did not necessarily serve Emmanuel Macron during his tenure. The president benefited very little from the French team’s 2018 world title, quickly overshadowed by the Benalla affair and the “yellow vest” movement. “I have compared all the opinion polls in the six months since the coronations of the Blues and we see that Chirac has experienced an increase in favorable opinion for two months, while Macron has continued to fall,” analyzes Jean-Baptiste Guégan.

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Focusing on the polls as a scorer for his statistics, Emmanuel Macron and the presidential candidates now have three weeks to try and entice the millions of football-loving voters.