Financial sacrifices have led to a young homegrown team gaining experience
14 October ~ Last week, Lyon announced further plans regarding the club's new stadium, as they leave Stade de Gerland next January. Many fans will be disappointed to depart the club's home of 65 years, which is steeped in history. Designed by the celebrated architect Tony Garnier, the iconic curving roofs at either end of the ground have witnessed much success – not least when Les Gones (The Kids) secured seven consecutive League titles.
The last one came in 2008, coinciding with the moment when club president Jean-Michel Aulas declared that the club would build a new ground, the Grand Stade. This decision was bitterly rebuked by some – especially farmer Philippe Layat, who was left aggrieved as new roads leading to Lyon's future premises would slice through his land.
Meanwhile, on the pitch, sacrifices were imperative to generate quick cash. Yet the exit of various stars left an opportunity for homegrown talent who had to be blooded early. Their inclusion has eventually been immensely fruitful, highlighted by manager Hubert Fournier's young team, who finished second behind Paris Saint-Germain last season. The team currently lie in sixth but did record an impressive away win at Caen at the end of August.
Currently being built is a state of the art training ground alongside the stadium which will house the academy, the senior men's team and the prominent women's side. Meanwhile, stadium manager Xavier Pierrot has released more information regarding the hi-tech arena. According to him, 25,000 fans should have the ability to use Wi-Fi simultaneously and key replays from around 20 different angles will be available to supporters on their phones, while they will also be able to order their half-time drink and printed shirt from their seat during the game.
Aulas confirmed that the Grand Stade will be in use 365 days a year, also staging rugby and concerts, and the fans will be keen to see some of this revenue ploughed back into playing personnel. While Lyon will never be able to compete with PSG's financial muscle under their current ownership, a stronger squad has to be assembled for them to last the distance in a title race.
Aulas also needs to be cautious with ticket pricing at what he has coined "Stadium 2.0". Fans can purchase an 18-month season ticket renewal for €495 (£368) to watch games in the stand where the most vocal support will congregate – a decent offering, however it is vital that the club do not hike that figure up if they enjoy a period of success.
Individual match tickets also need to be kept at a sensible price. Aulas would be wise to attract new supporters – while Lyon's high prestige fixtures comfortably sell out the 43,000-capacity Gerland, this is not the case with the encounters against "lower" opposition in Ligue 1. If a consistently full house backs this team brimming with talented young players, Lyon will continue to be a force domestically, and in Europe. Nick Roberts