Despite the departure of the leader who orchestrated the takeover of its women’s section, Olympique de Marseille seems determined to change things economically and sportingly for its daughters.

Until now, at Olympique de Marseille, there was a women’s section because you had to have one. It was in tune with the times. From the media, the few reckless journalists wishing to take an interest in it were quickly sent back to their ropes by Christophe Parra, the team’s big boss from 2011 to 2022. It must be said that the media was not Christophe’s thing, but really not. Don’t imagine that the fact that an American came to head the club changed anything about the fate of these ladies. Since 2016, the team has mainly done the lift, in one direction or the other, between D2 and D1. But that was before.

Local sponsors, inclusion and OM-PSG

In the summer of 2021, Nathalie Nénon-Zimmerman arrives in the Commanderie’s offices as Deputy General Manager, in charge of marketing and revenue. On paper, she had the freedom to do like everyone else: ignore the women’s team. But, encouraged by President Longoria, she will make it a personal project. “We are the only major city in Europe that does not have a women’s team in the first division. We must, within the framework of the project, carried by the president, to take it to the same elite level as the men’s team because we are Olympique de Marseille ” she explained in March 2022 to the local media Made in Marseilles. Since her job title included the word “revenue”, she will come up with a simple plan to fund her ambitions for the team. There was no question of relying on very weak TV contracts, especially in D2, so she decided to turn to local companies. These are approached to become privileged partners who, in exchange for their patronage, benefit from the influence of the OM brand associated with the values ​​of “mix, diversity and inclusion” according to the terms used by Joël Chassard, Chairman of the Management Board of Caisse d’Épargne CEPAC, in the press release formalizing the arrival of the first founding partner on April 19.

Since then, Nénon-Zimmerman has left OM, but his plan has survived. The CEPAC therefore, but also the Department of Bouches-du-Rhône, Onet, JEFCO, Randstad and Puma now support the girls of OM Campus. The economic model of the future for women’s football? “It’s not necessarily the model of the future, but it’s a model that can allow women’s football to start at a local levelexplains Luc Arrondel, co-author of Like the boys? The economics of women’s football. Today in women’s football, with the exception of a few very large posters, ticketing is completely marginal, TV rights are not important enough, so yes, the contribution of a sponsor can be decisive for a club. And for a sponsor, the budgets being quite low, the cost of entry is very affordable. It can capitalize on the growth potential of women’s football associated in our example with the OM brand. »

“The rise over the next two seasons”

Economically, the direction is clear. And sportingly, where are OM going? It was decided to change everything there too, starting with the head of the section that the club sought from the European benchmark for women’s football. An Olympic, Lyon this one. Alban Sánchez, 26, recounts his arrival at La Canebière: “After six great years in the women’s academy in Lyon, Olympique de Marseille contacted me. Discussions began in February, but at first the project was a bit hazy. However, there was the will to understand what was going on, I felt a lot of listening, and it became more concrete over time. On April 11, I joined OM on a very ambitious women’s project. » Before detailing the orientation given to his new club this summer: “We had the arrival of a new staff (Yacine Guesmia, Ludovic Rossi, Alexandre Germain) with whom we were able to design the team. There were 28 players in the squad, we made the choice to keep 12 and then recruit 12 others. The idea is to have a team that is identified with the Olympique de Marseille jersey with players trained here or who understand in any case what this jersey represents. » The locals Yrma Mze Issa or Sarah Zahot thus made their comebacks this summer in their training club where the precious Jenny Perret still plays in the middle, all framed among others by the experienced Ashley Clark in front or Karima Benameur Taieb in the woods.

On the bench, the mute Christophe Parra has therefore given way to an ambitious Yacine Guesmia, but not in a hurry: “The ambition this season? It is to win all the matches! (Laughs.) But more seriously, the season is long, there are still plenty of things to improve. We’re just coming out of prep. We will take stock mid-season. We are in no hurry to say to ourselves: we immediately want to play the climb. I have been set the goal of a comeback over the next two seasons. » The ambition to win all its matches is above all obvious – especially since the first of the season saw the Phocéennes win 8-0 against Nîmes -, but the return of any ambition among the women of the ‘OM, that’s already a lot…

By Mourad Aerts, in Marseilles
Words by Arrondel, Sánchez and Guesmia collected by MA.

Photo of home: OM Women’s Twitter


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