With Bordeaux in disarray, anger unwilling to subside and financial Armageddon seeing them unceremoniously demoted to the third tier, fans would be forgiven today for thinking back to the night of April 7, 2010, inside a raucous Chaban-Delmas stadium.
Stirring up nostalgia is one way to lift the gloom but even memories as great as that run to the Champions League quarter-finals in 2009-10 – which culminated that April night with a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Lyon – comes tinged with sadness in the sense that good times have been fleeting ever since.
Now Bordeaux, one of the most famous clubs in France and one that brought through Zinedine Zidane as a player, has seen their boom or bust approach detonate on them. Failure to get their finances in order in the coming days and weeks and a spell in the abyss of the third tier awaits.
Bordeaux have been demoted to the third division of French football pending an appeal
Fans have protested frequently throughout the years having seen a steep decline in 12 years
A coffin was held up by one fan with Bordeaux’s financial issues catching up with them now
BORDEAUX’S FALL FROM GRACE
Ligue 1 winners: 1949-50, 1983-84, 1984-85, 1986-87, 1998-99, 2008-09
Coupe de France winners: 1940-41, 1985-86, 1986-87, 2012-13
Coupe de la Ligue winners: 2001-02, 2006-07, 2008-09
Trophee des Champions: 1986, 2008, 2009
Intertoto Cup winners: 1995
Champions League/European Cup: semi-finalists 1984-85, quarter-finalists 1987-88, 2009-10
Many may ask how Bordeaux have fallen to such a low, have fallen to a point where they seemingly have no plan on or off the pitch. Bordeaux’s fans may find themselves surprised it has taken this long.
A decade-plus of mismanagement has finally caught up with them but this is not a moment for rivals to celebrate. This should arrive as a warning that no club can outmanoeuvre this many bad decisions.
Last season Bordeaux finished bottom of Ligue 1, the top flight of French football, and wrapped their horror show of a campaign with a goal difference of minus 91.
It was far and away the worst defensive record in Europe’s top five leagues. They didn’t even manage a clean sheet until the start of April.
Low-lights included a 6-1 battering by Lyon, a 5-0 capitulation to Reims and then Rennes hit them for six. The humiliations began to feel like episodes in a series that was never ending.
And yet that level of ineptitude was only enough to shove them into Ligue 2, the second tier. It was to be the mess in their accounts that did the damage they are now furiously fighting to undo.
Direction Nationale du Controle de Gestion (DNCG), French football’s financial watchdog, did some digging and left unsatisfied at what they found, made the decision to relegate them to division three pending appeal.
Bordeaux immediately appealed.
Flashing back to more than a decade ago, they would regularly play Champions League games (Pictured: Bordeaux closing down Chelsea winger Florent Malouda in a 2008-09 match)
Here stands a team that has six Ligue 1 titles to its name, a team that has a UEFA Cup final appearance from 1996 on its resume, a team that was a fixture in the Champions League until the last decade, and now a team that is at risk of being the team French football forgets.
‘Girondins de Bordeaux will appeal the DNCG’s decision to relegate the club to National 1,’ the club said in a statement.
‘It is with dismay that FCGB notes the DNCG’s decision to announce an administrative relegation to the third tier. The club will obviously appeal the decision immediately.
‘This brutal decision, after nearly two hours of hearings in good conditions, deprives the club of continuing its strategy to clean up its finances and write a new page in Bordeaux’s history.
‘Heard on June 14 by the DNCG, the club presented a guaranteed re-engagement of the majority shareholder of $10.4 million, an agreement with the club’s debtors as well as offers for a few players more than the total targeted amount.
‘The club remains confident in its ability to demonstrate a solid project for the 2022-23 season and the appeal will grant time to finalize new solutions to ensure Ligue 2 status.’
Recent success in Europe peaked with a Champions League quarter-final against Lyon in 2010 when they had players like Yoann Gourcuff (front, bottom right), dubbed ‘the new Zidane’
Bordeaux simply hasn’t had its house in order for years.
Go back to the appointment of ex-France defender Willy Sagnol in 2014 as a case-in-point.
Since bringing in Sagnol – Zidane rejected the opportunity and given his later success with Real Madrid, what a masterstroke that was – Bordeaux have burned through 10 managers. The words boom and bust crop up again.
Players have come and gone, too.
Ex-Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny, who had that awkward unveiling when he was wearing an Arsenal shirt, only to take it off and show a Bordeaux shirt underneath, was axed from the squad in January and told he was free to leave.
They’ve shown an inability to keep hold of talented youngsters, too, with a young Aurelien Tchouameni, who has joined Real Madrid in an £85m deal recently, leaving for Monaco for close to £17m in 2020.
Big results arrived in that 2009-10 season, included a famous 2-0 win away to Bayern Munich
Bordeaux’s rich history is littered with trophies, including six Ligue 1 titles, but that has waned
Twelve years of frankly absurd management decisions has brought Bordeaux to this point, however.
At the start of 2010, Bordeaux were the league leaders in Ligue 1 and were top of their Champions League group, which included both Bayern Munich and Juventus.
That quarter-final exit to Lyon now feels like the tipping point for the mess that has followed.
In August of that year the club elected to sell star man Gourcuff to Lyon, of all teams. He was replaced by a man who scored one league goal in three and a half years.
Bordeaux’s mess – for which there is a lot – is brilliantly laid out on social media by Raphaël Jucobin. It says plenty that his iconic original thread constantly needs updating.
In 2010, as well as the dreadful Fahid ben Khalfallah, in came striker Moussa Maazou on a loan deal from CSKA Moscow.
Six months in and he declared he ‘doesn’t give a s***’ having returned to Russia in the January. Charming.
And fans have had to put up with a lot, particularly of late.
There have been multiple French Cup exits to lower league opponents, transfers that have gone horrendously wrong, managers ditched without getting a full season of games, and protests, so many protests.
Fans have seen enough as the decline reached a new low last season in finishing bottom – with one game against Lorient forced to be stopped due to an influx of pink toilet paper
Fans protest before a clash vs Brest with a banner reading ‘you are the shame of Bordeaux’
The Ultramarines are the main supporters’ group for Bordeaux and they have not been shy in mobilising and making their feelings known.
Having had European football as little as three years ago, the new depths they are plunging too has the club divided like little else that has come before.
During a game against Lorient last season, the referee had to temporarily suspend the match following an influx of pink toilet paper being thrown onto the pitch.
‘You are the shame of our 140 years of history,’ read one banner.
’89 goals conceded, you are s***!’ another read.
Winamax, a betting company that was one of their sponsors, appeared to openly joke about the club’s demise on Twitter, in now deleted tweets. The fans found themselves humiliated.
Now scrutiny rests solely on the balance sheet, for that is all that will satisfy the DNCG in overturning their demotion.
This should not be new territory for Bordeaux. They have, dare we say, faced sanctions before.
Now the hard work starts off the pitch as they look to win an appeal regarding their finances
Bordeaux president Gerard Lopez pictured leaving a hearing before the DNCG on Tuesday
Prior to last season they were demoted to Ligue 2 by the DNCG, only to be restored to Ligue 1 on appeal. They must hope they can again produce the compelling case they did on that occasion.
It will come too soon for fans to think back to the bold declarations of new president Joe DaGrosa in late 2018 when he promised huge sums of money for investment and a Champions League return in three years. That, unsurprisingly, never came.
Investment fund King Street came next, a year after DaGrosa went big picture. They forced the president out and themselves vowed to take Bordeaux back into the Champions League. Again, that never happened.
Debts of £25m stalked them at the end of 2019-20 and that was when the DNCG demoted, before reinstating, them due to financial concerns.
The buck now stops with former Lille owner Gerard Lopez and as he left the offices of the DNCG on Tuesday, he looked like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Just imagine how the fans feel…