Lawn, unpaid rent and verbal attacks… Losing in war with the stadium owner

RMC SPORTINFO. It is a relationship that has been under strain for months. On the one hand, Losc wants to reduce the rent of the Decathlon Arena Stade Pierre-Mauroy because, according to him, there are too many dysfunctions, and in particular the condition of the field. And on the other hand, the owner, the European Metropolis of Lille (MEL), who wants the contract that binds the two parties to be respected. Problem: Lille owes almost a year’s rent after not paying for several quarters. Faced with this extremely tense situation, the chairman of the MEL decided to speak exclusively to RMC Sport.

Attacked several times on the quality of the pitch, in particular last Sunday by the president of Losc Oliver Létang after the match against Toulouse, Damien Castelain, president of the MEL (European Metropolis of Lille), owner of the Decathlon Arena Stade Pierre- Mauroy to us about this subject on Tuesday, November 14.

“It is normal that Losc is dissatisfied,” he immediately mentions the state of the pitch, recalling that the last Rugby World Cup took place in Villeneuve-d’Ascq and that there is no question of a change of pitch. “We knew it from the start after five World Cup matches. You only have to look at the other cities in France where rugby has been and not all of them have changed the pitch. This comes at a price, at a time when people are suffering from floods, conflicts… This is not the time to spend 500,000 to 700,000 euros of public money. After the five rugby matches we plan to cocoon the lawn, to spoil it. Lille will not play in the stadium until December 3. We will take stock at the end of November, but there are no plans to change the lawn.”

More than 6 million euros in payment arrears according to the MEL

The atmosphere seems tense between MEL and Losc. This is confirmed by Damien Castelain. “We are surprised by these statements (from Lille management, editor’s note), these constant attacks, while the MEL spends 30 million euros a year to finance equipment and a stadium dedicated to the Losc team. Criticize us so on the high rental costs … We are not in a small stadium. There is a roof, there is all the equipment that Losc needs to pay 6.5 million euros in rent per year. It is an amount known since 2012 (the year the stadium opened, editor’s note) Michel Seydoux and Gérard Lopez (the previous leaders, editor’s note) never complained.”

And Castelain tempers his tone a bit: “We don’t understand this increase. Especially because if we complain we would still have to pay our rent. Which has not been the case for Losc since 2021 and 2022 (three quarters in 2021). and a quarter in 2022, editor’s note). This means a total of 6.5 million euros in payment arrears. “We do not understand the attack on the MEL and its elected officials,” Castelain added. An attack that is all the more surprising within the public establishment because, according to our information, as a jersey sponsor it finances the women’s division to the tune of 500,000 euros per year.

How to solve the financial problem with Losc? “The general paying treasurer will do his job and recover the amounts,” Castelain answers. “That’s not even the problem, it shouldn’t have been on the table. (…) The most important thing is Losc, the institution, its supporters. I have supported Losc since 1979, I am happy that he is 4th and I wish he will go far in the European Cup. I will always be Losc’s biggest supporter.”

Club accounts seized?

Losc contacted RMC Sport and in turn indicates that it has been trying for three years to discuss the terms of use of the stadium, which it no longer considers adapted to the standards of a Ligue 1 club such as Lille. The Lille club believes that the fence no longer meets lawn standards, and in particular catering areas. And overall he thinks the rent is far too high compared to what is being done elsewhere in France.

The last formal exchange between Damien Castelain and Olivier Létang took place at the beginning of this year, although discussions within the MEL are also taking place in July. Since then, Losc has regretted that the European metropolis Lille has not responded specifically to her requests. According to our information, after the president spoke on Sunday, Losc received an email from the public finances indicating that they wanted to seize the club’s accounts to recover the amounts owed. The tension between both parties is therefore extreme.

Is a conversation with Olivier Létang possible to solve the rental problems? “We are intelligent men, we will solve things…His wrath will undoubtedly subside and we will resume necessary and sufficient relations so that all supporters do not suffer from this kind of outburst,” Castelain said. For his part, Olivier Létang, who wants to respond coolly to the MEL, plans to speak publicly on this topic very soon and respond point by point to Damien Castelain.

Loïc Briley and Jean Bommel

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