Lens president Gervais Martel remains confident that the club will be playing in Ligue 1 next season, despite the ongoing problems with the budget and the sanctions currently imposed on the club, reports the official Ligue 1 website.
Lens earned promotion last season to the top flight of French football after finishing second in last year’s Ligue 2. However, the club are set to be demoted back to Ligue 2 after the DNCG, the governing body which regulates all the professional French clubs' finances to maintain fair play and to ensure financial stability, rejected their budget and the appeal that followed.
The initial budget had to be edited to a more realistic approximation for the appeal, with €10 million still awaited from the owner to be added to the total, it was still rejected by the DNCG.
Martel explained that the delay in cash, which included a further €18 million from the Bank of Azerbaijan, was due to the long weekend because of the national holiday on the 14th of July and wasn’t considered by the DNCG when they made their decision regarding the appeal.
Launch an appeal
Lens will now appeal to the national Olympic and sporting committee, CNOSF, as their last hope of returning to the top flight. The owner of the club, Hafiz Mammadov, currently owes two other clubs, Sheffield Wednesday and FC Baku, based in his home country of Azerbaijan.
There were rumours from the start of the week, before the appeal was heard that Mammadov had been arrested in Azerbaijan, causing the delay on the transfer of the funds. This was neither confirmed nor denied by Martel.
Whilst Martel is desperate for the team to return to Ligue 1 after being relegated in 2011, he feels that he has done he can in preparing for the appeals. The possibility of facing Ligue 2 football is a burden that not only Martel is facing.
The current coach Antoine Kombouare has failed to turn up to lead pre-season training, saying he will only return until the decision on where the club will play next year has been made. The players are said to be struggling with the threat of demotion, and Martel has said that he is due to meet with them to discuss the current complex situation.
Lens fans have created an online petition to try and rally support for their team’s battle to avoid demotion.
Sochaux & Nantes
Two teams who be waiting intently to the final decision are Sochaux and Nantes. Sochaux were relegated from Ligue 1 last year but could earn themselves redemption if the CNOSF decision goes against Lens, forcing the club back to Ligue 2. Nantes will be eager to find out which team they will host in the first league game of the season on the 9th of August.