On Friday, the CNOSF announced their verdict regarding RC Lens’ appeal against their non-promotion to Ligue 1 and, happily for the Nord side, the body ruled in their favour. The French National Olympic and Sports Committee (rearrange the letters for the Francophone acronym) ruled that the Sang et Or should be allowed to take their place in the French top division this season, with their first game due to take place on August 9th (Saturday) against Nantes.
The ruling had a number of knock-on effects, and a number of people related to RC Lens have had their futures directly affected by it.
Firstly, Antoine Kombouaré, Lens’ coach, would return to his job for the first time since the initial decision, having refused to do so until a conclusion was reached. His side had stumbled to two friendly defeats in his absence, and that number increased to three at the weekend as fellow Ligue 2 promotion winners Caen defeated his side 4-2 at Le Touquet – a Mathieu Duhamel hat-trick being critical, but also Rudy Riou playing another 90 minutes in goal.
Riou’s performance was crucial – the veteran may have featured in all three friendlies so far, and has conceded nine goals throughout – but he was back-up to Alphonse Areola last season. The talented youngster announced his intention to sign for Bastia during the week, and it is a shame he will not be representing the club he helped to promotion at the higher level. In truth, it was always a matter of time before Areola moved on, and Gervais Martel has obviously somebody in mind for the position – following the games against Caen he reassured fans, joking that it would certainly not be him in goal on the 10th August.
Martel is the man at the centre of this maelstrom, and has carried himself with considerable decorum throughout even if, as I hinted previously, his reasoning for Lens’ funding delay became increasingly tenuous. Now that everything is sorted, his umbrella of Hafiz Mammedov not understanding the vagaries of French football legislation sound plausible, though it is worth noting that the Uzbek was busy buying Sheffield Wednesday while Lens were on the precipice.
That said, Martel rebukes my disbelief (albeit not specifically mine) in an interview with Lens’ official website over the weekend.
“How do you think it is understandable for people, when they said that there is an IBAN number that is not good? And that is the truth. How do you want them to understand that there is a transfer order, and it does not happen? And it is still the truth. I told the truth from the beginning”
This article is not to pick fault with Martel, a man who I think has been doing a rather good job in trying times, and has an equally testing fortnight ahead as he looks to bring in quality players to boost his squad – promising four or five players to be added to the fold before the start of the season.
For all this positivity, the CNOSF’s decision is not binding, it is simply a recommendation that they will put to the FFF (French Football Federation – again, shuffle the initials around) with a decision from that body due on Monday.
Should that obstacle be moved from Lens’ way, there is another in their immediate path.
The Sang Et Or season is going to consist of 38 away games.
The choice of stadium in which they will play in is still very much up in the air. The club, seemingly, are keen to play their games in Calais, at Calais Rugby Club’s Épopée Stadium. There are aspects of that stadium that would need improving, and it is unclear if a 12,500 seat stadium would be able to accommodate the necessary crowds, but a delegation from Lens was in Calais last week, in discussions about the possibility of the Sang et Or ending up there.
The summer of upheaval is not yet over for Lens. One part of it may be settled soon, but there is still more to come and with only a fortnight to go before the start of the season, it is not an envious position to be in.