French Rugby Federation names site for new stadium
The French Rugby Federation has chosen Evry Centre-Essonne as the site for its new 82,000-seater home stadium.
Situated some 25 kilometres south of Paris, Evry Centre-Essonne saw off competition from a Thiais-Orly site located just 1 kilometre from the French capital’s second airport, Paris-Orly. The new stadium, of which the FFR will be owners and operators, will be built on a 133-hectare development in place of the Ris-Orangis hippodrome, which has fallen out of use, and will form part of a sporting and leisure complex.
It will be located close to the Saint-Eutrope forest and to the urban centres of Evry and Ris-Orangis within a catchment area of 540,000 people and with transport links to the Massy TGV high-speed train station, Paris-Orly and several key roads. The FFR, which currently pays a reported €5 million per game in rent to the Stade de France, expects the new stadium to open in 2017. It intends to host at least 20 events a year there, including French rugby internationals, finals, and concerts, but will remain in its headquarters 20 kilometres west at Marcoussis.
FFR president Pierre Camou said; "The choice of Evry-Centre Essonne / Ris-Orangis represents an important step in our plan to build a new stadium, which belong to the FFR, which is part of a long-term vision of the Federation. It responds to real needs that were identified several years ago. Today, the FFR must be independent in order to organise the great games of its national teams in France, to support, in sporting and economic terms, the great enthusiasm that exists around our sport. French rugby must adopt 'his garden' just like the other great nations of world rugby."
For FFR financial director Paul De Keerle, who spoke to SportsPro at the start of June, it is a move which cannot be put off any longer. "You have to know," he explained, "that French rugby essentially depends on revenues around the organisation of French national team games."
"French rugby must adopt 'his garden' just like the other great nations of world rugby."
The French national team has few problems selling out the Stade de France and has done so regularly for the past 15 years. Nevertheless, the FFR is not the primary tenant in Saint-Denis, and on those occasions when fixtures clash it is the French Football Federation that takes precedence. De Keerle recalls with some frustration the events of November 2009, when the soccer team’s Fifa World Cup qualification play-off match against the Republic of Ireland shunted the rugby players out to the provinces.
"We had to play in Toulouse, in a stadium with 35,000 seats," he said. "So the federation lost the resources of 45,000 seats. That wasn't nothing. To give you an idea, the average price for a ticket for the match was €60. So when I do 45,000 by €60, that was a bit of money."
Put simply, it is a setup which leaves the FFR unable to properly exploit what is one of the country’s biggest sporting assets.
"In fact the federation has a deluxe product – which is rugby and the French national team – and we do not control the factory in which that product is created," said De Keerle. "That isn’t possible. So we need to master our means of production."
Home ownership will give the FFR greater control over a wide range of commercial activities. AEG has been brought in, initially in a consultative capacity, to offer guidance on the possible sale of naming rights to the stadium and on the operation of a debenture scheme.
"In fact the federation has a deluxe product – which is rugby and the French national team – and we do not control the factory in which that product is created."
Representatives including FFR president Pierre Camou have embarked on an extensive tour of high-grade facilities across the world. The best ideas have been passed on to three architectural teams in the running to design the stadium: Arte Charpentier, HKS together with Foster and Partners, and Regembal Architecture and Populous.
De Keerle expects the finished article to boast both a retractable roof and a removable pitch, while four giant screens will ensure that spectators inside the ground enjoy the same kind of access to statistics as those who have stayed at home to watch the game on television. Such features, he admitted, are not unique, but they are evidence of the commitment to excellence that will define the €600 million project.
An interview with FFR financial director Paul de Keerle forms part of a wider feature about the current investment in new French sports venues in the July edition of SportsPro. Euro 2016 SAS stadium and facilities director Xavier Daniel also speaks about the wave of soccer stadium development ahead of the country's hosting of the Uefa European Championship in four years' time. Click here to subscribe.
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