Financing and professionalization of sport in France

Goal : make France a sporting nation and place itself in the Top 5 for the number of medalists in 2024.

Sport participates in a positive transformation of society from all points of view: for health, for integration, for inclusion, for values ​​such as cohesion, solidarity … It is for this noble reason that more and more companies are involve sports professionals to help them improve their management.

For Dominique Defache, administrator of the APDC (association bringing together 700 finance and accounting professionals working in companies) who introduced this round table, whether one is a government agency, a sports club, amateur or professional, or a sponsor, it is therefore essential to set objectives and set up indicators to measure the relevance of the actions implemented.

More and more public policies «  offensive « 

The impetus comes first from the public authorities: in 2019, the National Sports Agency (ANS) was created, in the form of a GIE, to create a partnership system between the State, sports movements, local communities and economic players.

the budget of 300 million euros allocated to it in 2020, increased to 400 million in 2021, is the best proof of the importance given to sport, which is becoming a real social issue in France. Its mission is twofold. First of all, to increase the performance of French athletes by helping federations and clubs to find talent, then by training and supporting high-level athletes. It also aims to develop practices so that the French can practice sport at all ages.

To do this, the ANS finances local associations, supports communities to renovate and build equipment, etc. The objectives are ambitious: increase the number of practices by 3 million by 2024, and join the Top 5 medalists at the Paris Olympics.

The National Sports Agency operator of the recovery plan

Sport is now considered a business sector in its own right, with economic and societal ramifications. As proof, the important role that the ANS plays in 2021 since it has been designated as the operator of the recovery plan.

60 million in 2021 and 60 million in 2022 will help support the employment of young people in the sports sector, support the local associations most in difficulty, accelerate the digital transformation of federations, and support the energy renovation of sports equipment.

Agathe Barbieux, Director of Development, adds: «  We have also created a solidarity and compensation fund to support the federations, some of which have lost 80% of their licensees.  »

Sponsors who weigh heavily and drive a CSR policy

The big sponsors, for their part, also play an essential role. Who hasn’t heard of the FDJ cycling team? La Française des Jeux, which everyone knows for its bets, is less known for its role as a major player in the financing of sport in France. It indeed sponsors a large number of sports activities.

Beyond economic logic, the image it radiates is just as important, and it is developing its strategy in such a way as to take part in the evolution of society.

As Amel Bouzoura, Director of Sponsorship and Sports Partnerships, points out: «  We promote a more societal aspect to our support, such as the promotion of women’s sport, or integrity in sport. We try to give meaning to our partnerships beyond our logo on a jersey or on the edge of the field. « 

The solidarity is in order: a number of FDJ sponsorship contracts which expired during the pandemic have been extended, despite the decline in activities.

The clubs change their funding and their organization

On the sports club side, things are also moving. Bernard Mirailles, accounting and tax director of the La Poste group, honorary president of the APDC and president of Réveil de Nogent Handball, testifies: «  We are an amateur club of 200 licensees with a team that plays in National 1. We are very dependent on public subsidies, that’s why we are looking to develop sponsorship private, but it is difficult, because it is enough for a sponsor to let us go, or for the municipality to reduce its budget to put us in financial difficulty. « 

Franck Danet, Walter France partner, is also president of Caen Basket Calvados, which sails between Pro B, Nationale 1 and Pro Ligue. Its mode of financing is totally atypical in the sense that private financing represents 80% of its budget, against 50% on average for other clubs. «  As a chartered accountant and auditor, the good management of the club that I chair is fundamental for me. We manage money that is not ours, which forces us to be even more rigorous. We sell sports, entertainment, random sports results. « 

It is therefore necessary to be irreproachable on the rest: the reception and the relationship with the partners among others. It is for this reason that a sales unit has been created internally. Always as a good manager, Franck Danet, who knows that‘it is dangerous to be dependent on one sponsor, has instilled a very strong sponsorship culture, with 250 partners to date! A very high average of what is practiced.

This club president has been able to adapt to circumstances. The key word: visibility. Forced to play his teams behind closed doors during the pandemic, he broadcast the matches on video, and few partners have disengaged. Today, it continues to broadcast matches, digitizes its offer, is present on social networks, sells advertising space, adapts to new technologies.

Indicators that must adapt according to the objectives

The sums at stake being more and more important, control systems are being put in place. For large sponsors, indicators can be linked for example:

– the establishment of good club governance: the number of boards of directors, general meetings, conferences, meetings with companies, etc.;

– the development of the practice: number of licensees, evolution of the number of female licenses;

– sports performance;

– the accounting organization: debt ratio …

Each year, the ANS requests a qualitative and quantitative report from the federations and clubs it supports, which must meet the key question: « Did the grant awarded allow you to achieve the goal you set for yourself? » « 

For the clubs, the indicators are linked to the number of licensees, the performance of athletes (at the Caen Basket Calvados club, at the end of each match, an individual and collective evaluation of the team is carried out) and the renewal rate of partnerships.

The key factors for the success of a sponsorship

As sponsorship has become in recent years a key element of clubs’ budgets, and therefore of their sustainability, they must imperatively put all the chances in their favor. According to the speakers, there are four key success factors in this area: consistency of the choice of sport with the strategic challenges of the company (in other words, avoid « the president’s dancer »); the duration (favor loyalty over an opportunistic approach from a sponsor); from relevant actions (a communication budget is essential); from measuring tools (successful sponsorship is measured sponsorship).

For Pascal Ferron: “The 2024 Olympic Games will be a great opportunity to promote all practices. The challenge will be to know how to bounce back to perpetuate the enthusiasm that will ensue, and to ensure that as many French people as possible regularly practice a sport, as well as as many private partners as possible can also get involved in the long term. « 

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