Soccer. French clubs, promise of a good deal for foreign investors

Why are investors so interested in French clubs? « Make no mistake, the clubs are undervalued in France, and the potential is rather enormous », slice a business lawyer on condition of anonymity.

If the strategies differ between an investment fund and an industrialist, their common appetite comes from this low valuation of French clubs. As in all of Europe, they have been hit hard by the Covid-19, a pandemic which has cut European football revenue by around 7 billion euros over two seasons, according to UEFA.

“Clubs are not expensive”

But this crisis was coupled with another in France, that of the bankruptcy of the former broadcaster Mediapro in 2020 which brought down the price of clubs even more. As a result, French clubs are not expensive, and investors, who are betting on a recovery in TV rights during the next cycle starting in 2024, believe that they can offer them a rapid capital gain. “For an investment fund, the logic is quite clear. You have to buy at a low price, develop and resell in the short to medium term between 3 and 5 years, or play on transfers, ”assures a business lawyer close to the football community.

And unlike Germany, for example, no law prohibits an investor from owning more than 50% of a club. « France is one of the best places to invest, » says Vincent Chaudel, founder of In & Sport and the Sport Business observatory. And it is likely to remain so for a while according to him. “The economic environment is healthy, the clubs are not expensive. And there are many reasons to invest, there are many ways to get a return on investment other than through financial gain,” he explains.

American businessman Frank McCourt, who bought Olympique de Marseille in 2016, has not yet sold, for example. “It has been said a lot that he was looking to do real estate in Marseille. Did he achieve it? We don’t really know, ”questions an analyst. “But it looks like he won’t lose any money, he didn’t get a bad deal. His compatriot John Textor, already a shareholder in clubs in Brazil (Botafogo), Belgium (Molenbeek, 2nd division) and England (Crystal Palace), looked at OL, a club « with Champions League potential » , recalls Vincent Chaudel.

The bad Bordeaux scenario

However, the road to financial success after buying a club is not so simple. Many have learned this at their expense, such as the American Paul Conway, who took over AS Nancy in 2020, relegated to National this season.

The Bordeaux scenario certainly also has something to cool some ardor. The club, sold by M6 to the American fund GACP in 2018, was sold almost immediately a year later to another fund, King Street. But in April 2021, this fund also threw in the towel, ceding control of the club to the Hispano-Luxembourg businessman Gérard Lopez.

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