A capacity crowd watched with me in the new Stade de Alpes (budgeted €30m, cost €73m) in Grenoble as the home team earned promotion to the French first division with a draw against Châteauroux.

Funny thing incentive. Grenoble required a point – that is, a draw – to earn the right to play next season with the likes of giants Lyon, Bourdeaux, Nancy and Marseilles. The opposition Châteauroux squad also needed a point– only in their case it was to stave off relegation to Ligue 3.

Unsurprisingly, what was served up was dire. Most of the action came very late when Châteauroux defended heavily and Grenoble as a result felt safe enough to launch several forays forward. But in the entire game there were two genuine saves and one pressured goalie clearance.

But that was not the point. The bigger picture was the party for the historical advance to the big time; and for that the boisterous crowd led by the Grenoble’s flare-wielding “Red Kaos 94” nutter-fans (friendly chant for every opposing goal kick “ooooooohhhFILSD’ENCULE!!!!”) led the way.

Parallels to the world of finance are tempting. The leveraged debt financing of the stadium was justified by the promise of promotion, an ethereal piece of reasoning if ever there was one (c/f subprime is not a poor credit risk in this economy). The team owners – Japan’s Index Corporation – got exclusive use of the stadium via other people’s money without having to pay a cent themselves. And when construction costs more than doubled the public was again and again tapped for the difference. Punters and players rejoice.

But with Ligue 1 status earned it is going, sort of, to plan. The fact that Lyon sent a second eleven here for a cup-tie during the winter and won 4 nil has not been taken as a portent of the forces lying in wait. And with the taxpayer keeping goal (here too) why should it?

Bookmark and Share


Related Posts with Thumbnails