Football: OL women, the pioneers at the time of reconquest



A reconquest or a transfer of power? This is one of the challenges of the final of the Women’s Champions League, this Saturday 21 in Turin, between Olympique Lyonnais and Barcelona. The Fenottes (the nickname of the Lyonnaises), weaned from titles last season, find the ultimate continental duel for the tenth time, and are aiming for an eighth coronation record. The Catalans, rewarded for the first time in 2021 (4-0 against Chelsea), hope to confirm their status as the new queens of Europe.

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A success would in any case be a breath of fresh air for Jean-Michel Aulas, CEO of the OL Group and tireless promoter of women’s football. The girls at the top is the saving foam of a season in the hollow of the wave for the men’s Olympique Lyonnais, deprived of the European Cup for the first time in twenty-five years at the end of a full season. What amply justify the efforts made on a women’s section which occupies a place in its own right in the OL house.

Move walls

“It was not easyremembers Isabelle Bernard, who very quickly piloted as leader the emergence of the women’s section at the end of the 2000s, and later its structuring, advising Jean-Michel Aulas. These are not lines that had to be moved, but walls to force the men to become less macho and not to see the women’s team as an embarrassing outgrowth. Thanks to the unfailing will of Jean-Michel Aulas, the integration was gradually achieved, confirmed first by the European titles of 2011 and 2012, then definitively acquired when the club moved to Décines in 2016.

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OL left their historic Gerland and moved to their new big stadium, with their training camp and academy to train their youngsters. “The idea of ​​giving the women’s team the same training conditions as the boys has materialized, in terms of infrastructure, but also technical and medical supervision.explains Olivier Blanc, the current director of OL Women. The means are there, it is far from being the case everywhere. »

The women’s OL evokes a budget today comprised between “8 and 10 million euros”. Enough to ensure significant salaries, exceeding €30,000 monthly for a few players (captain Wendie Renard, Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg, playmaker Amel Majri), well beyond the average for clubs like Guingamp or Soyaux. , which does not reach €2,000. Nothing to do, of course, with the stratospheric remuneration of men’s football.

“But the ecosystem of women’s football is obviously not comparable, and OL women still have a deficit of a few million euros which the men’s club finances, as with women’s PSG moreover.observes Luc Arrondel, associate professor at the Paris School of Economics. For OL, the essential interest is in terms of image, which is very positive. Except that, be careful, after being a pioneer and ahead, OL women are caught up by other European clubs. »

Fill stadiums and push formation

Barcelona is pulling its claws, other Spanish, Italian and German clubs are gaining momentum, and England is showing its ambitions by creating an independent professional league. The French Football Federation recently initiated a similar reflection within a high-level Women’s Football Commission, led precisely by Jean-François Aulas.

“The biggest job is to bring more people to our stadiums, and therefore to improve the attractiveness of our championship.comments Olivier Blanc. It is then necessary to accelerate the effort on training by pushing the recognition of women’s training centers by the ministry. This is not yet the case, and this limits us. »

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While waiting for recognition allowing it to recruit more widely, OL encourages its partner clubs to bet on women’s football, everywhere in France but also internationally. Typical example, AS Dakar Sacré-Coeur, linked to OL since 2015, which founded its women’s team in 2017 and became champion of Senegal in 2021.

Men’s OL already relies on a network of associated clubs in Vietnam, Morocco, Portugal and Brazil. “Our challenge for tomorrow is to develop this model at the level of women’s football”underlined last year Vincent Ponsot, the director of football at OL.

Conclusion of Olivier Blanc: “OL were the first to understand the need to think about their strategy for women as well. Faced with competition, we must now stay the course. »

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Sonia Bompastor for a first

She has been in charge for just over a year, and here she is on her way to making history in her sport. Sonia Bompastor was already the first woman to lead OL Women. The former international, who has already won the Champions League as captain of Lyonnaises in 2011 and 2012, can become the first to double the lead as a coach if OL win their final this Saturday, May 21 against Barcelona. In the meantime, at the beginning of the week, she made herself the advocate of women’s football at the microphone of RMC Sport, asking the French Federation to invest much more in women’s football, at the risk “to be quickly overwhelmed”. “There is an emergency, I am ringing the alarm bell”insisted the ex-Blue.

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