Décines-Charpieu (France) – "We are in a virtuous spiral with an audience that will be present" at the Women's World Cup, welcomes with AFP Jean-Michel Aulas, president of the club of Lyon, whose stadium will host the semi-finals and final of the tournament this summer.
"The challenge for women's football and its economic equilibrium would be that the Blues come in the semifinals of the World Cup in Lyon", still exposes JMA, for whom the Blue ones are"capable"to win the supreme title.
Q: Jean-Michel Aulas, were you immediately convinced of the development of women's football?
R: "There were two phases. In 2004, the City of Lyon asked me to take over the ladies' section of the FCL in difficulty and it took a little time to see the emergence of gender equality and women's football. It is from 2005-2006 that something different from what had been done previously was really integrated into the project".
Q: Is the Lyon model the one everyone copies in Europe with the emergence of big clubs?
R: "In history, it is rather Louis Nicollin (the former president of Montpellier who died in 2017, ed) who was a forerunner and who invited me to take this orientation. The emergence of Paris was fast. Montpellier has always had very good teams. Juvisy has merged with Paris FC and Bordeaux is investing a lot. On the European level, we have probably given the desire to all major clubs to be able to do it either by buying a club or by advancing an integrated women's section. The four semi-finalists in the Champions League were all major European clubs this season and the Lyon-Barcelona (Saturday) final also reflects Barça's determination to be at the highest level.".
Q: What budget does OL spend on its ladies team and is it profitable in visibility?
R: "OL OL is part of the OL association, which manages the amateur section. The expense budget has gradually evolved. It is this season between 7 and 8 million euros. OL also invests EUR 2 to 3 million per year for promotion but it is only a desire to have a balanced economic approach. We also founded an academy. We are the only French club to have done it. The case is almost balanced and allows the OL to have titles but also a considerable international notoriety. Moreover, we are negotiating to be part of the National Women Soccer League, the US closed league, to have a participation agreement with a franchise already present or with a team funded and developed by OL".
Q: What about player salaries?
R: "There is a big difference between boys and girls but the evolution has been considerable. In Lyon, salaries are 5,000 to 10,000 euros monthly (on average, stars like Ada Hegerberg, Amandine Henry or Wendie Renard emargeant to more according to the press, Ed) but the best players in the world can have direct salaries up to 500,000 annual fees to which can be added individual or collective rights of image, as for the American Alex Morgan (who played at the OL) who had in the United States contracts of image able to exceed the million dollars".
Q: Is it another audience?
R: "We have a slightly different audience and even more family. There is less antagonism and more consensuality about how to play women. Playing times are higher on a women's match than men's. There are probably less simulations and it's probably easier to arbitrate. The identity of the supporters is more national even if at OL we managed to create groups of supporters specific to our club".
Q: Is the World Cup in France a turning point for the development of women's football?
R: "This is a must because it will be an incredible success. Most stadiums are already crowded. At Groupama Stadium, the semi-finals and the final will be sold out. It was a bet at the time of our application. We have 17,000 US reservations on the 59,000 tickets on sale in each of our three games. The TV has made sure to acquire the rights, more modest than for boys, but it is an opening to the public. We are in a virtuous spiral with an audience that will be present. And we see arriving as TV announcers of CAC 40 companies that were more oriented towards rugby, in particular, and now turning to women's football. The revenues related to advertising on the retransmissions will be very close to what they were for the Euro-2016 or the World".
Q: Is it essential that France is in the last four?
R: "Yes, that would be the best of things. The challenge for women's football and its economic equilibrium is that the Blues come in the semi-finals in Lyon. They have the capacity. France is world champion in boys and it would be historic to have girls in the same cycle. There is an alignment of the planets for this national team that I think can also win the final".
Q: Eight lyonnaises are present …
R "The course of our Lyonnaises Champions League is important to build confidence. Ensuring that our eight Lyon (including Emelyne Laurent lent to Guingamp, Ed) can win everything including the World Cup, it gives incredible psychological strength. It's as important as the individual technique. We also have six other players in other selections".
Interviewed by François-Jean TIXIER