By Antonio Torres del Cerro
Saint-Denis, France, May 13 (EFE).- The club has not played in Ligue Un for almost half a century, but it still has an enviable commercial appeal. Despite languishing in the third division, Red Star FC in Saint-Ouen is a magnet for sponsorships and investors. The proof: the American fund 777 has just bought it ahead of Gerard Pique’s Kosmos.
Seen as the antithesis of the multimillionaire Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), the popular club from the suburbs of Paris boasts a genuine ‘charme’ due to its proletarian and left-wing roots, a kind of Parisian Rayo Vallecano (Madrid) or St. Pauli (Hamburg).
777 Partners, the same fund that controls 10% of Sevilla and which bought Serie A team Genoa and Brazilian side Vasco de Gama, has just acquired the Saint-Ouen-based club that was founded in 1897 by Jules Rimet – the former Fifa president who was the driving force behind the first ever World Cup.
The sale has been a tense affair, with Red Star fans firmly opposed to the takeover.
The president and owner of the club for the past 14 years, Patrice Haddad, announced the deal on Wednesday. The amount has not been officially disclosed, but market sources estimate between 15 and 20 million, a considerable price for a team that currently plays in the third division and whose annual budget is around 4.5 million euros.
“This amount does not correspond to its real value, but it does correspond to its potential,” sports marketing specialist Vincent Chaudel told EFE, pointing to the fact that Paris has only one top flight club (PSG) and the mystique and history of Red Star, one of the oldest teams in France that is associated to values such as integration and diversity.
The US investment fund beat Pique’s Kosmos to the punch. “We were two fingers away from acquiring it,” the player himself acknowledged in an interview with L’Équipe last week.
The new owners from 777, who will keep Haddad and his team in place, will have to deal with the deep discontent of a section of their boisterous support, who are outraged by the arrival of an investment fund that they see as a symbol of capitalism.
As soon as the sale was made official, the anti-fascist RS Bauer Collective, said it was “a somber day in Red Star history.”
“Now more than ever, the fight is only just beginning,” the ultras added in a message on social media.
Despite the reluctance, the Red Star considers this operation necessary. “I am firmly convinced that 777 Partners is the best choice to guarantee and safeguard the values of our club while providing the resources to open up new perspectives,” said Haddad, the club’s president.
The short-term goal is to move up to the second tier, and then prepare for a move up to the first tier, Ligue Un, where it could rival PSG and perhaps Paris FC, another club from the French capital that plays in the second division.
A promotion would also allow Red Star to sign professional contracts for players over the age of 15. The club would thus be able to train players from the Paris region, a fertile breeding ground for footballers in Europe – Kylian Mbappé being a case in point.
The five-time French Cup winners (1921, 1922, 1923, 1923, 1928 and 1942) have begun to lay the foundations for a return to the top flight, which has eluded them since the 1974-1975 season. EFE