District 47 football president Sylvain Michelet evaluates the start of the season, which has seen an incredible number of postponements due to bad weather conditions.
Mr. President, how can you evaluate the Lot-et-Garonnais clubs in the half of the championship?
We still need to be there in the middle of the season because there are so many games coming late! We currently have 75 games postponed at county level alone, 15 cup games and too many among the juniors. All because of bad weather conditions…
But this is nothing new. Aren’t these match postponements “normal” in this period?
I’m on the field every weekend. You can tell me what you want, I’m from Touraine and the land at home is the same as here. However, 40 ml of rain is enough and the match is postponed. In D4, Sainte-Livrade and Bias played only three matches! When we see clubs playing on the snow in the east of France… We are not safe from bad weather next February and March: So what do we do next?
Going back to the “mid-season”, what is the sporting result?
At the regional level, we can clearly see that Casseneuil and Nérac stand out in D1, followed by Saint-Colomb and USVP. FCPA2 and OS Agen are off to a very good start on D2. At league level, Marmande, Casseneuil and EBBE are not too bad in their groups. But not having a team in R1 anymore is a pain in the heart. Of the 12 Aquitaine regions, we are the only region that does not have a team in R1. It would be great to have two teams in R1 in our region.
But what about the Marmande U17s playing at national level?
They are in 6th place in the rankings with one match left. Very good for the club and the region. So what do we offer them next? They are leaving National for a top R2 team! Where will we put these young people? These kids will go to the R1 or U19 National Championships, but what happens after that? That’s why it’s important that we have Lot-et-Garonnais clubs in R1.
Does stronger Lot-et-Garonnais football require a regrouping policy?
I have club presidents who tell me that we should form a team from Grand Agenais, Grand Confluent, Grand Marmandais. OK and then? Will people and players identify with this new club? There is a name, a logo, a story, values and identities. We risk losing them. The right questions need to be asked about the failure of certain groupings. Many parameters, especially distances, need to be taken into account. It is not easy to put two or three bell towers together. Sometimes you need to stay measured and in your place.
Doesn’t this happen at the request of the club president?
Being a club president nowadays is becoming more and more complicated. We cannot put anyone in this situation. In my opinion, a club president must be a player and must have gotten his hands dirty. I started playing football when I was 6 years old and became a player, manager etc. I am 56 years old after doing things. You should then be courteous and remain humble towards club volunteers. Some miss this…
So where is Lot-et-Garonnais football?
We are a rural region and a fragile region. We have lost a lot of teams in the last five years. Currently, our 50 clubs are working hard on the number of license holders. We reached 8,647 license holders with an 11% increase in the number of license holders. This is a historical record for the ministry. And we have 1000 licensed managers. Very big! What is holding us back is our infrastructure. We have only two synthetic fields in our department (Marmande and Agen). We do not have a quality infrastructure like our Landes and Corrèze counterparts. As soon as it rains a little in our country, everything stops. Are the floors maintained regularly? It costs €200,000 to rebuild the pitch with natural grass; A synthetic, with lighting but without a stand, costs on average 800,000 Euros. Before talking about synthetics, it is necessary to regularly maintain the existing one. It’s not just a matter of mowing and marking the land… The sewers of many plots are clogged. At least if our fields were evacuated, 75 of our matches would not have been postponed. When I talked about it I was immediately told it costs money. Clubs also expect the city hall to do everything. Yes, this comes at a cost, but there is also federal aid. Football puts money on the councils’ table to help repair pitches. What other sport does this? Rugby doesn’t do that…
What would be the ideal second part of the season?
Let’s play all the matches and go all the way as champions, without withdrawing at the end of the season, without being relegated from the league to the district. Also have great cup finals like last year in Marmande. This year we will hold it over two days (11 and 12 May 2024), but we have not determined the location yet. A call for applications will be launched.
So what is Lot-et-Garonnais’ vision for the football of tomorrow?
The development of women’s football, but also the development of futsal among women and youth. A great success growing. It attracts people and sometimes up to fifty young girls into the same room! We also have football schools overflowing with children. It’s crazy in places. We will succeed in raising quality players that we will keep at home. I’m also considering partnership. We are the only region that names competitions in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine League. We started from scratch and today all our competitions have been named. I have 37 partners, 11 of them play the name card. And again, find a team or two from 47 in R1. I want Lot-et-Garonnais football to be positive and progress!