It was a desperate call from sprinter Meba-Mickaël Zeze last December. The one who runs the 100 meters in less than ten seconds lacks funding to participate in the next Olympic Games in Paris 2024 and has launched an online kitty to try to “saving a career in peril”. “I’ve been tired of knocking on doors for three years and nothing happens, he declared, bitterly, to AFP. One year from the Olympics, I can’t move forward. »
New phenomenon? Not really. In March 2009, a scene had already been talked about. Pole vaulter Romain Mesnil staged himself on YouTube, running almost naked in the streets of Paris. Later, he will launch two auctions on the eBay site to find a sponsor, after the non-renewal of his contract with the Nike brand.
Aid conditional on performance
The cause of all these evils? The lack of state aid pointed out by some top athletes. However, the National Sports Agency (ANS) ensures to put the means. “In 2022, 72 million euros were devoted to the development of high performance”announces Odile Pellegrino, High Performance Advisor within the institution. “This notably allows the organization of free training courses for athletes. In addition, there are personalized aids according to each person’s status. »
Gold medalist in team fencing at the European Championships in 2017, 2018 and 2022, Auriane Mallo believes that “the ANS is putting in place measures, but only when we have results in the world championship. But Romain Cannone, who won Olympic gold in Tokyo, had never won a medal at the world championships.We can clearly see the limits of this logic.
In response, the ANS praises the merits of the High Performance Circle. A crucial instance both for “those who are regularly on the catwalks »than those who do not have this regularity but who ” showed they were capable of beating the best”. Today “nearly 560 athletes are concerned by this Circle”, explains Odile Pellegrino. Twelve million euros are devoted to the socio-professional follow-up of the athletes who are part of it, with the aim of providing them with an annual income of €40,000 gross, or approximately €2,600 net per month. “Many French people do not have this amount”recalls the high performance advisor.
Agreements with employers
“Of course, this scale of €40,000 may raise questions. Why not more? You have to set a scale”abounds Maguy Nestoret, former athlete and also high performance advisor within the ANS. “We look at how much an athlete misses, between an SHN job (new device financed by the agency which allows clubs to employ a high-level athlete to guarantee him a social status and provide him with an income, Editor’s note), an image contract or even a sponsorship grant, and we complete. »
High-level athletes holding an employment contract can, for example, benefit from employment arrangement agreements (CAE) in the public sector and professional integration agreements (CIP) in the private sector, with arranged timetable.
Until 2022, Auriane Mallo also benefited from a CIP, up to €35,000 per year, in a rehabilitation center, financed in three parts by the ANS, the Fencing Federation and her employer. Added to the initial contract signed between the fencer and her company, this sum allowed her to adjust her schedule to train reasonably.
“Except that with the scales of the ANS and the fact that I did not have a medal at the world championships, the part granted by the agency was reduced and that represented a larger sum to be paid by my federation. who was not there. » From then on, her agreement ended and the professional physiotherapist could no longer manage financially to ensure the continuity of her training.
Professional integration, the other challenge
As sport is sometimes cruel, Auriane Mallo recalls that her situation was only due to a frustrating defeat: “I lost by one touch as an individual in the quarter-finals and we lost by one touch as a team for the bronze medal, she remembers. These are keys that are very expensive. »
Launched in 2014, the Performance Pact aims to promote and finance the training, socio-professional integration and retraining of high-level athletes throughout the territory, as well as to encourage corporate support for these athletes. This system guarantees the latter a decent level of income, of approximately €20,000 net per athlete and per year, thus ensuring them a decent standard of living, during and after their sporting career.
“Companies, such as the SNCF, which has 35 high-level athletes, play the game of sponsorshipexplains Maguy Nestoret. The idea for the ANS is to supplement the shortfall of a company that hires an athlete and who obviously cannot work full time, to save time for training. Beyond tax exemption and the CSR report (Corporate Social Responsibility) for an employer, this helps prepare the professional integration of the athlete, once his sporting career is over. »
For fencer Auriane Mallo, the story ends well. “I appealed to sponsors then I had contact with an RTL journalist who allowed me to call Alexandre Bompard when he was on the radio premises. » With nerve, the sportswoman convinces the CEO of the Carrefour group to sponsor her.
After months of uncertainty, his joining the team Crossroads ensures financial serenity until the Paris Olympics. A chance for the athlete who becomes aware of the French delay in terms of sponsorship: ” Many of us practice sports that are not well publicized. Companies don’t know us. They want medals, but not at any price. »
A lack of sports culture
“We want to make companies more aware”admits Odile Pellegrino, sometimes recognizing a “communication deficit”. “There is also a reality: the closer we get to the Games, the more expensive the support of an athlete by a company will be, because the latter will devote more and more time to his training”, recalls for his part Maguy Nestoret. The latter also regrets that athletes neglect to register for the Performance Pact form: “Some complain of not having help but do not take the step ! »
Beyond the delicate question of the financing of high-level athletes, Auriane Mallo points to a lack of sports culture in France. “In high school, I clearly saw that my training and my trips to competition disturbed my teachersshe recalls. In people’s minds, sport is all well and good, but it shouldn’t require too much effort. On the other hand, in good French that we are, if there are no medals at the finish, we complain! »
Aid for French athletes
In 2022, the National Sports Agency (ANS) had a budget of 451.2 million euros, up by around 9% compared to 2021 (€412.5 million), to carry out its missions. In 2023, the agency announces a similar budget, in view of the next Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris 2024.
The bonuses awarded to Olympic medalists are as follows: €50,000 for a gold medal, €20,000 for a silver medal, €13,000 for a bronze medal.
In 2023, France will have around 15,000 athletes and hopefuls linked to high-level sport registered on the lists of the Ministry of Sports. The French Handisport Federation has 184 high-level athletes.