LIGUE 1 – What would change for L1 without Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne? ‘Mbappe’s influence is greater’

Ten titles of champion of France on the one hand. Six on the other side. Plus a dozen French cups in between and a couple of League Cups. Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne are heavyweights in the French sports landscape. Historic clubs that have left their mark on French football in various ways. But on Saturday evening around 11pm, Girondins and Stéphanois, 20th and 19th respectively in L1 for the 38th and final day, were able to say goodbye to the tricolor elite the same evening. And it would be an event with consequences that we may not necessarily suspect.

The risk is very real to see the two formations relegated a year before the L1 grows to 18 clubs. Every club knows the evil that has brought it into this very uncomfortable situation. And both are well aware of what this could mean for their institution. We know when we are going down, but not when we find the elite… If they are in the cart, they will have to change their way of life, cut costs, cut certain budgets… Something to ask is not necessarily reassuring.

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But even for the L1, these descents would not be taken lightly. Especially from an economic or marketing point of view. †It affects the L1 brand because these are clubs with a historyLionel Maltese immediately points out, sports marketing specialist, professor at the Kedge Business School, based in Marseille.Not having Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne is not good at all for the L1 brand“, adds Pierre Maes, sports rights adviser.

One of the challenges is to have club brands that interest broadcasters

Losing two clubs of this size would therefore not be good news for the “L1 product”. For what they already represent. †For the League, one of the challenges is to have club brands that are of interest to broadcasters. And if you replace Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne with, for example, Toulouse or Ajaccio, the impact of fame and influence is not the samenotes Vincent Chaudel, founder of the Sport Business Observatory. Bordeaux, for example, doesn’t have the same fame impact as Toulouse if you place yourself from an economic point of view

More than their history, the Girondins have the advantage of being domiciled in a major city that appeals to the whole world, thanks in particular to the fame of the Bordeaux wine. †Bordeaux is still a club with an interesting catchment area with a high purchasing power. And a city that is a very well-known brand internationally. For example, it will have more economic impact to see Bordeaux disappear from L1 than Saint-Etienne“, believes Lionel Maltese. Another black point? Their infrastructure and supporters.

Saint-Etienne players sent back to the dressing room after the interruption of the match against Monaco in Ligue 1, 23 April 2022

Credit: Getty Images

TV rights, audience, stadiums: ‘All this has an impact’

If the Girondins regularly struggle to fill their new quarters, Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne have a fan base and stadiums worthy of the name on the French Championship scale. And that too weighs in at best to “sell the L1”. These are two clubs that are present in the Top 10 of L1 visitors despite their disastrous season, which failed to encourage less loyal supporters to fill their spaces. Their descent can create a small air pocket, which is not to be taken lightly. Especially since the issue of prosperity is already a concern in France. †Let’s take an example to illustrate this.Vincent Chaudel joins us. In 2000 we had an average of 21,000 spectators in L1 and Germany was at 26,000. Today, the Bundesliga has exploded to 43,000. Meanwhile, L1 has stagnated at 21,000 – 22,000. All of this has an impact on TV rights, ticket revenue and marketing valuation.

This observation also applies to TV rights, which are under negotiation until 2024, but will be back on the table very soon. †Losing Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne is not good for L1 at all. And we’re not just talking about domestic TV rights, answers us Pierre Maes, sports rights adviser and author of the Business of Football TV rights† As these are clubs with a reputation that goes beyond borders, we are also talking about international TV rights, even though their respective exploits are a bit dated and the L1 product is currently being phagocytosed by PSG.

More important if Mbappé stays in France than if Bordeaux or Saint-Etienne stays

The blow would therefore be hard for the L1. But you have to put it in perspective, it wouldn’t be dramatic either. †It’s still prices, but from a marketing and economic point of view, generation gaps are starting to emerge. Some generations didn’t necessarily know the time when Bordeaux and Stéphanois were getting results or playing Europe“explains Lionel Maltese.

Above all, the situation has evolved from a marketing point in recent years. †Today we are reaching a stage where the players have more weight than the L1 clubs in terms of media impact,” continued Lionel Maltese. “Today’s fans are more and more ‘player-addicted’ than ‘club-addicted’. For example, we saw when Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juventus, he took fans with him.“, emphasizes Vincent Chaudel.

So much so that a far greater danger than the cumulative descents of Bordeaux and Sainté awaits the L1: a departure from Kylian Mbappé. †“The impact of Mbappe is greater for L1 than if Bordeaux and Saint-Étienne manage to hold their own”, Vincent Chaudel summarizes. “For the clubs that will host PSG, it’s a guaranteed sold-out crowd. For partner development or partner negotiation or negotiations to lay the groundwork for TV rights, Mbappe’s choice will outweigh the future of Mbappe.” the Girondins de Bordeaux.

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