Lens have been handed a major boost in their attempts to play in Ligue 1 next season after the CNOSF, France’s Olympic Committee, decided that there is no financial reason for the club not to play in the top flight, reports the official Ligue 1 website.
Lens have been embroiled in a battle for their survival after the DNCG, who are the financial watchdogs of French football, had deemed that their budget for next season was not secure and should remain in Ligue 2. Lens had finished second last season to return to the highest level of French football since 2011.
Problems for Lens
This issue was surrounding a discrepancy in the budget with €10million not being paid by owner Hafiz Mammadov, who also owns Sheffield Wednesday. Initially a public holiday in Mammadov’s home country of Azerbaijan was to blame, but when the money was still not accounted for during the appeal to the DNCG, they decided that Lens should not return to Ligue 1.
With Mammaadov deciding before the appeal to the CNOSF not to give the €10million to the club, the budget was altered so that it would be more stable for next season. This led to the CNOSF giving the recommendation that Lens should play against the best teams in France once again.
However, club president Gervais Mertel is not getting too far ahead of himself. After spending more than 24 hours working solidly on reshaping the budget with the shareholders and club staff, he knows that the recommendation is not enough. The final decision lies with the French Football Federation’s Executive Committee, and until they make their decision, all celebrations are currently on hold.
Martel believes that with the CNOSF’s decision, it should be an easy decision for the FFF as they have demonstrated their budget clearly.
Light at the end of the tunnnel
Once the decision is passed, it is only the start of a long recovery process for Lens. During the whole process, which has gone on for over a month, has had a direct effect on the squad. Head coach Antoine Kombouare has refused to take control over the first team squad whilst there has been a lack of clarity, having a direct effect on the pre-season training.
Lens have also lost out on several of their transfer targets during the summer with other clubs taking advantage of the club’s problematic situation. Their stadium is also being rejuvenated for the 2016 European Championship meaning that they don’t have a ground to play their home games in yet either.
Martel is looking to the positives though. He knows how close the club came to “catastrophe…both in sporting and social terms.”
The FFF are expected to make their decision at the start of the week, with fans across Lens, as well as Sochaux whose relegation could be confirmed, eagerly awaiting the news.