Amateur football: “A club like AS Saint-Priest, you can’t shoot it like that!”

Stade Jacques Joly of AS Saint-Priest, March 7. The pennant team (in N2, fourth echelon of French football) narrowly bowed at home against RC Grasse (2-3), and fell to 14e place (out of 16) in the ranking. At this moment, the players do not know it yet, but they have just disputed their last meeting of the season. Worse: this precise defeat condemns them to relegation to national 3, while there are still nine games to play on the calendar. Consequence of the decision made by the French Football Federation (FFF) last Thursday to stop net the amateur championships due to the epidemic of Covid-19, by freezing the classification on the day of the interruption while maintaining the system of three ascent-descent… only for passages from N2 to N3 and vice versa For all other championships, there will only be one ascent, one descent. “I’m scared, it’s an aberration. We add woe to woe ”, fulminates Patrick Gonzalez, president of this popular club in the Lyon suburbs.

Already hard to swallow, the defeat turns to undrinkable. During the first 21 days, Saint-Priest was almost never relegated and had just faced the formations at the top of the table. “The calendar was much more favorable for us then. The following weekend, we played Marignane, one point ahead of us, and we recovered six injured », rages the leader, for whom a white season – the championships purely and simply canceled, with no rise or fall between divisions – would have been more logical. Definitely poissard, AS Saint-Priest: its team B, in regional 2 (7e division), first at the truce, third at the time of the glaciation, will not be promoted.

Sad irony of fate: the leader san-priod had co-written two successive letters at the beginning of the month with Eric Thomas, president of the French Association of Amateur Football (Affa), for the attention of Noël Le Graët, so that several measures are taken in order to best manage the end of the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Approved in the meantime by some 3,000 amateur clubs, the letters went unanswered. “The instances [districts, ligues, fédération, ndlr] never consulted us, castigates Patrick Gonzalez, for five years at the helm of the club. Now we’re going to open the cages, let go of the lions. ”

Three-quarters less employees next season

Such an unexpected descent would be catastrophic for the club. From 1.050 million euros, the budget would drop to around 500,000 euros. A drop of half to be linked with those of the town hall grants (300,000 euros today) and the withdrawal of many sponsors. Without forgetting the aid from the Federation, divided by 4 in the event of demotion (from 35,000 to 8,000 euros, allocated to team travel every weekend).

At the same time, an amateur club like Saint-Priest pays a subscription of 70 euros for each of its 650 licensees, or around 45,000 euros which are found each year in the coffers of the FFF. To this must be added the costs of arbitration (20,000 euros), training, but also fines (around 10,000 per year) … “A large amateur club pays between 80,000 and 100,000 euros a year [à la FFF]”, summarizes Patrick Gonzalez.

If the demotion is activated, the manager will only be able to keep a quarter of the twenty employees currently employed by the association. “We risk stopping training, but also closing sections, teams.” The female structure, strong with 80 people and growing, will also have to review its ambitions. He will no longer be able to pay all of his educators “Who also have training courses which are excessively expensive”, explains Robert Mouangué, sports director since the position was created in 2017.

Up to now, Saint-Priest is one of the only two structures in the eastern part of Lyon to be labeled Eite (the highest level for youth training). The reputation of “blood and gold” as a nursery in the Lyon suburbs is no longer to be proven (Luis Fernandez, Youri Djorkaeff or more recently Nabil Fékir have shaped their game there as a junior). Over the decade, an average of fifteen players signed up each year in professional clubs (18 in 2019). “Many L3 players sometimes have as many as five of our former players, adds Robert Mouangué. So a club like AS Saint-Priest, you can’t shoot him like that. “

A pledge of support that extends beyond the lawns. Visits to museums, cleaning of neighborhoods, awareness of waste treatment in collaboration with local missions: several socio-educational activities allow young people to also become “Good citizens of tomorrow, underlines Robert Mouangué. Without forgetting the internships and training that we find for older children. All this is threatened. Some kids will have to go back to neighborhood clubs with even lower means

It was heartbreaking for Franck Valente, member of the recruitment unit for under-19s for seniors and assistant coach for under-20s. For three years in the staff, this former san-priod player from the 90s is aware of the difficulties that could be those of the club. His included, from next season. “If I am kept in my post, I will not have the same means. And it’s not as easy to attract players in N3 as in N2 “, assures this territorial agent at Lyon-Métropole, which until then pocketed 350 euros per month for its activity within the club. A little more “who [m’]help for the end of the month, like many “.

Close the budget “at all costs”

Despite everything, clubs like Saint-Priest must find the financial resources necessary to be on track for the two deadlines in June. The first, the payment of contributions to the FFF on June 11. For Saint-Priest, the invoice amounts to 500 euros. A reasonable amount, “Because we paid everything in advance”, crop Patrick Gonzalez. “But a lot of small clubs are not in this case and can no longer make money by then. How are they going to do it? ” More worrying, the closure of the budget before the 30th of the same month, date on which the club must go to Paris to present its annual balance sheet to the National Directorate of Management Control (DNCG), the financial police of football. The balance sheet must be balanced, under penalty of sanctions (demotion, for example).

Problem: “Many partners who were supposed to give us money between March and June are at the bottom of the hole. Their employees are on partial unemployment, how do you want them to help us? ” wonders Patrick Gonzalez, who estimates that to be afloat today, he would have to recover between 150,000 and 200,000 euros. A sum that was to be provided in part by raffles and other end-of-year youth or inter-company tournaments, all canceled since. Impossible to count on the traditional recipes of the refreshment bar, after the redevelopment of the sports complex by the town hall this year (it also includes two new synthetic fields, but also a natural lawn, changing rooms and grandstands redone).

“We will all go to war”

“Today, it is not up to us to restructure ourselves. It’s up to Mr. Le Graët to change. If they don’t reverse their decisions,it will be very, very hot. We will all go to war, “threatens the president, who has just addressed a new open letter published this Friday to the Minister of Sports, again supported by Eric Thomas. Among the urgent demands: the cancellation of all the descents, but also the “Implementation of a relief and emergency fund for amateur football”, at least 300 million. As revealed by the Team, this special fund is between 12 and 15 million today. “All 15,000 amateur clubs donate 150 million euros each year to the FFF. It’s an organized racket “, denounces Eric Thomas, who points out that in four years, nearly 4,000 clubs have disappeared. For him, the distrust of amateurs towards the authorities will reach a point of no return. “Football should advance on its two legs. Today he is hopping on his professional leg. “

Roman Métairie

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