opinion | The American quarter of French sports

Crystal Palace, Standard de Liège, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Parma, AS Roma, Venezia FC, Atalanta, AS Genoa, AS Nancy, OM, Chelsea, Red Star and soon Olympique Lyonnais: these European clubs are owned by American groups, often the the same, which raises questions and annoyance.

However, football remains an emerging sport in the United States, after basketball, baseball or American football, which are as much sporting events as shows.

Are we witnessing the advent of sports entertainment? What operational and financial model do these acquisitions, most of which have been made since 2018, correspond to? Why do they scare European players so much?

They seek commercial and financial synergies

The traditional business model of clubs is based on the vertical of the players, whose sports results translate into television rights, ticket sales, merchandising and trade. The balance of cash flows is complex; most European clubs are largely loss-making year after year.

And that is the big difference with a new model, which strives for a financial balance through a horizontal expansion of the customer offer.

In addition to seeking sporting results, the strategy of these investors is to transfer good practices from other sectors to the clubs they buy out, to modernize them and give them a “scale effect”:

– they strive for commercial, financial and managerial synergies, through the ownership of different clubs in Europe – the CIES, quoted by Forbes, estimates that there are 60 multi-clubs in the world, two-thirds of which were born after 2018;

– they offer a partnership between clubs of the same family, including for women’s teams and training academies;

– they systematically use data analytics and artificial intelligence to support investment and recruitment decisions through specialized teams;

– they promote the expansion of the social footprint of their clubs through the production of adjacent content (video, podcasts, series, music, etc.) about the values, struggles and history of clubs, teams and players – others have already done it successfully Done : Formula 1 (since its acquisition by Liberty Media, also American) has produced four seasons of “Formula One” on Netflix and tennis no longer counts biopics;

– they transform and invest the stadiums into places of life and dialogue with their regional community between matches;

– they contribute to the digitization of the spectator experience, through new engagement and loyalty tools – social networks and NFTs. Supporting or following a club is no longer a matter of zip code, physical proximity, but rather belonging to a digital community that shares a passion without boundaries.

At the intersection of sports, media, technology…

These changes are, of course, not unanimous – especially among traditional supporters who fear the dilution of their club’s individuality into remote-run multinationals.

But this update of the model ultimately leads clubs to refocus on the customer – the fan, the spectator – and on the cultural issue of sports results.

It enables these clubs to reconnect with their audiences and listen to new expectations of inclusivity, diversity and values.

It is in this space that France can create its exception, symbolized by the Red Star – the only National 1 club to be part of this American roster, testifying to the strong French appeal.

By connecting its existing talents in this new ecosystem, France can envision its next champions at the intersection of sports, media, entertainment and technology, sectors where it excels and where its heritage is rich.

The Americans understood this a little in advance; Let’s play.