First Monaco and then.....
Cannes, one of the shining jewels on the French Riviera, the Cote D’Azur as it is known locally. The millionaire’s playground most famous for its annual world renowned film festival is a city which attracts celebrities and tourists in their hordes. Catching a glimpse of a mega yacht, a Ferrari or a celebrity is common place as you walk along the seafront or down the never ending rows of designer boutiques. A city which attracts such high levels of wealth and such vast numbers of people surely has a football club at the pinnacle of French football, recording weekly sell-out crowds and attracting some of the world’s most exciting players to the French coast. Not quite. You could be forgiven for not noticing AS Cannes as you scanned the French leagues, they are currently languishing in the French fourth tier, known as the Championnat de National amateur (CFA). The CFA is comprised of a mixture of semi-pro clubs, but mainly amateur clubs, who are vying in four regional leagues to gain promotion to the French third tier the Championnat National. After a little research you would notice that AS Cannes finished fifth in the National in the 2010-11 season, only two positions from promotion to Ligue 2, the equivalent of the Championship in England. Why has the club that finished 11 places and 25 points above the relegation zone, found themselves applying their trade in the 2011-12 season in an amateur league?
AS Cannes are not accustomed to playing in the French fourth tier; in the 1997-98 season the South coast club were plying their trade with the French elite in Ligue 1, against the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille. In fact AS Cannes were one of the founding members of the professional French Divison One in 1932. With their stadium, the Stade Pierre de Coubertin, boasting a capacity of 16,000, why are the side only recording an average gate receipt of 1,869 in the 2010-11? Similarly, how is a club that can proudly claim having world renowned names such as Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Gael Clichy on their books in recent history, be struggling so dramatically? The answer is money. Ironically, a football club in one of Europe’s richest locations is struggling drastically financially. During the summer of 2011 there have been rather contentious and dramatic court cases taking place across the lower leagues in France, forcing Cannes amongst other clubs to be humiliated to relegation.
The Direction Nationale du Contrôle de Gestion (DNCG) is the organization responsible for monitoring and overseeing the accounts of professional association football clubs in France. On 26th May 2011, following a preliminary review of each club's financial and administrative accounts in the National, the DNCG ruled that Strasbourg, Pacy Vallée-d'Eure, Grenoble, Gap and Cannes would be relegated to the CFA after the organization came to the conclusion that the clubs were enduring financial difficulties. The organization also excluded Toulon from participating in the CFA and relegated both Agde and Chambéry to the fifth division. On 19th July 2011 Cannes had an appeal to remain in the National rejected and had to wait till the 4 August 2011 for its re-appeal hearing. On the 4th August, a day before their season either in the National or the CFA was about to begin, the Football Federation re-affirmed its decision to relegate Cannes to the CFA using the DNCG’s evidence.
It seems impossible for a club who share the same wealthy coastal stretch with successful clubs such as Marseille, Nice and Monaco could fall into the depths of despair and become entangled in the financial difficulties that have forced them into one of the darkest periods of the club’s history. As stated above, the situation is not purely a Cannes problem. Far from it in fact, an alarming number of French clubs, some more notable than others, have had to accept relegation due to poor fiscal control. RC Strasbourg for example, is a club playing in the sixth biggest city in France, who reached the last sixteen of the 2005-2006 UEFA Cup due to winning the 2004-2005 French League Cup and as recent as 2007 were playing in Ligue 1, but are now a club in liquidation and resigned to playing in the French fifth division. One comparison that is glaringly obvious between the Strasbourg and Cannes situation, is the fact that both clubs were spending beyond their means. This is a worrying trend which has become apparent not only in France but across Europe.
It is now February 2012 and AS Cannes’ demise does not seem to be holding up. They sit in eleventh out of eighteen in the Championnat de National amateur, only four points from third bottom under the leadership of Frenchman Albert Emon. Emon’s squad fails to contain any of the noticeable faces that used to grace the fields of the millionaire’s playground, but instead have a mixture of local youngsters, seasoned pros and youngsters from various former French colonies. There is a distinct lack of core to Emon’s squad, with 18 out of the 34 players used in the 2011/2012 season being under 21, which for a club that needs leadership and drive to climb back up the leagues, is not ideal. Although with a record of won – 6, drawn – 4, lost – 4, goals have been Cannes’ biggest issue with their three top strikers only amassing 10 goals between them. What is more worrying is that attendances have been plummeting further with only 500 people watching their league fixture against Mont-de-Marsan on the 28 January. At a time in need, support is crucial to the club’s survival, both economically and to rally the team, but the future does not look bright for AS Cannes, although a 3 – 0 win in their latest league match over south-coast rivals, Monaco II, will give all involved a minute sense of hope.