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Monday, 4 August 2014

Luzenac Ariège Pyrénées keep the footballing dream alive - just

In April, the football team of Luzenac Ariège Pyrénées (LAP) originally from a village of fewer than 700 inhabitants, did the unthinkable.

It won promotion from the amateur league to join the French second division and, in so doing, became the smallest club ever to qualify to compete at such a level.

It was a football fairy tale come true

The players, management and supporters were on a high, looking forward to the big time - well, relatively speaking.

LAP celebrate after securing promotion to Ligue 2 in April (screenshot i>Télé report)

But as we all know - and as British comedian and political satirist John Oliver so sardonically reminded us in his excellent piece on HBO about the World Cup and Fifa - the so-called "beautiful game" is as much about business as it is about sport.

In fact, some might go as far as to say that, in terms of importance, the financial side has far outstripped the sporting one both on and off the pitch.

And so it has proven for LAP, whose chances of playing this coming season in Ligue 2 remain in the balance even though a tribunal has just ruled in its favour, hours before the August 1 kick off.

Finances - or apparent lack of them - have been at the centre of the club's problems.

Both the professional Football league (Ligue de Football Professionnel, LFP), through its Direction nationale du contrôle de gestion (DNCG) - the body which oversees clubs' finances, and the Le Comité National Olympique et Sportif Français Olympic committee dismissed LAP's right to promotion.

They claimed - through their lawyers of course - that during the 2013-14 seaso, the club's management took a DIY approach to its finances and failed to produce balanced books by the June 30 deadline.

Meanwhile LAP's management maintained, on its official website, that it was very much in the black, had had its books audited properly and had met all the regulatory requirements imposed by the LFP.

A tribunal in Toulouse heard arguments from both sides on Wednesday July 30, finally ruling in the club's favour on Friday August 1 - the very day the new season kicked off for Ligue 2.

But that is far from being the end of the story  - of course.

Because LAP still has yet another hurdle to overcome before it can be allowed to play a match.

The club will have to appear before the DNCG once again, within the next eight days, when a final decision will be taken.

So for the moment, its players and staff will have to wait and watch from the sidelines as the division's other 20 teams begin their campaigns.

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