Olympique de Marseille, 17 years later

Howdy everybody,

Today, I am thinking of my friend Romain. He is a big Olympique de Marseille fan, and after this week end results, I am sure (knowing him) that he is working on his jokes and football boasting notes on how OM is the best club in the world.  Yes, people from Marseille have a slight tendency to exagerate things…..I don’t get it,  but that’s not the point.
Indeed, OM is on top the the Ligue 1 table with 5 & 6 points (with 4 games to go) ahead of the 2nd and 3rd, and is on the right track for a new trophy. Olympique de Marseille seem to want to get back under the spotlights this season after 17 years of football drought .

Didier Deschamps, the former captain of Les Bleus, is bringing back the winning culture to the club by starting to win the League Cup, a pointless trophy, but a trophy nonetheless. How can the most popular french club could have stayed 17 years without winning any trophy? It’s a mix of mediocre management, lack of long term vision, weak personality of players, opacity of who is in charge, etc. However, since 2-3 years, some stability and therefore results consistency are back to the club. Finishing second last year, Marseille is on the right track to lift the domestic league trophy on May 15th.

This said, the club has not lost its appeal in France but also globally. According to France-Football 12-13 Million people are showing an interest in Olympique de Marseille. On a marketing standpoint, OM is one of the most lucrative club in the country. With sponsors such as adidas, Direct Energy and Betclic, Olympique de Marseille made a  42,7  M€ turnover for the 2008-2009 season. In addition, with a meaningful and powerful merchandising strategy, Olympique de Marseille is selling more than 550,000 licensed products a year sold in more than 1000 stores in France.
Globally, OM is ranked 15th in terms of turnover way behind Man Utd or Real Madrid, but before AS Roma (40,7 M€), Werder Bremen (25,7 M€) or even Manchester City (21,1 M€).

When it comes to TV rights, OM is also doing very well. Although being kicked out of Champions League this year (3rd place after Real Madrid and AC Milan), Marseille is ranked 13th in Europe, having collected 65,6 M€. For the records, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool received each circa 96,6 M€, Real Madrid 160,8 M€ and FC Barcelona 158 M€.

So next year, Marseille will be playing the UEFA Champions League with the league crown on their head. Although I am not a Marseille fan, I am thrilled to see this emblematic french club competing (again) at the highest clubs competition level. This club has the infrastructure, a stable financial situation (as far as I know), and a winning vision to bring global players on “the vieux port”.

I strongly believe that clubs like Marseille, PSG, Lyon and Bordeaux should be leading the League 1 and pulling other teams up to strive to  performance. It’s far from being the case as Auxerre is 2nd,  Lille  3rd and Montpellier (in second league last year) 4th. Lyon and Bordeaux have not secured their Champions League spots yet, and PSG is……..hopelessly struggling (again). With all respect for Auxerre, Lille and Montpellier, they are far from having the capacity to be successful in Champions League, unless someone proves me otherwise.

Finally, with Didier Deschamps and Olympique de Marseille are on their way to get their 1st trophy in 17 years. They  also do want to play a major role not only in France but on a global scale. Three main facts to illustrate:

1. We know who is in charge: J.C. Dassier (President)
He arrived in Marseille this year and is gradually establishing himself as the guy in charge. He does not have the accent yet, but I am sure he is working on it…

2. Financials are solid
Merchandising, TV rights, are in the plus zone.

3. Winning strategy
Didier Deschamps wearing the coach suit, knows exactly what winning means and what it takes. Also, he is a “local” having played for OM and therefore knows very well how to deal with the southern mentality.

So, Olympique de Marseille have all the cards in their game. They need to be played wisely on a sporting and economic standpoint, otherwise OM might start for another 17 years of nothing.

Karl Lusbec

PS: To keep my friendship with Romain, I did not mention the corruption cases that Marseille faced in 1993 where they could have lost the Champions League winner title, as they lost the 1993 league title based on the same corruption scandals.

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