Jean-Pierre Hureau, the Le Havre who breathed new life into the oldest football club in France

President of the Havre Athlétique Club for more than 20 years, Jean-Pierre Hureau allowed the club of Le Havre (Seine-Maritime) to regain its professional status and the first division. Meet.

It is called “the club give him”. The HAC is the first football club created in France. It was in 1872, in Le Havre, a maritime and port city in liaison with the English.

Meeting with Jean-Pierre Hureau on the occasion of the special day “150 years of the HAC” on the antenna of France 3 Normandy this Wednesday, September 28, 2022 (read below).

The emblematic president of the HAC receives us at the Bistrot des Halles, one of his former establishments. Because in addition to having been a football man, Jean-Pierre Hureau managed several restaurants, including the famous Paillette brasserie.

Slender, the physique of a sportsman, the lively look, he does not look 90 years old. However, a little tired and disturbed for family reasons, he asked to be accompanied, to better answer our questions, by Alain Belsœur who was at his side the general manager of the HAC.

Jean-Pierre Hureau, the president of the rebirth of the HAC

In the aftermath of the Second World War and after the heyday of 1959 when the “Sky and Navy” won the Coupe de France, the HAC experienced the 1960s marked by the loss of its status as a professional club and its descent into the honor division…

It was at the end of the 1970s that René Bourillon, a successful entrepreneur in the construction industry, passionate about football, attached to his hometown (Le Havre) and the history of his club, decides to relaunch the HAC.

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For this, in 1978, he contacted another Le Havre, an entrepreneur, invited him to Paris in a restaurant and managed to convince him to take over the senior club.

44 years later, Jean-Pierre Hureau confides that he immediately accepted: “For me it was an honor, I arrived almost running!” But he sets one condition: that Alain Belsœur team up with him. This is how the duo (president and general manager) will be in charge of the HAC for 22 years, until 2000.

When he arrives, Jean-Pierre Hureau has a goal, a horizon, a course: “not just building a team, but building a club.” It is that in 1978, the club is in 3e division and has lost its professional status since 1964. And on top of that, plays in a dilapidated stadium…

President Hureau will take the HAC to the elite (we still remember the HAC-Mulhouse match of 1985 and a whole city celebrating), create a training center, renovate the Deschaseaux stadium and thus restore the place it deserved the oldest club in French football.

To come: the rest of the portrait of Jean-Pierre Hureau, who was a professional footballer in Quevilly (near Rouen) and held high positions in the French football federation.

At the head of the HAC in 1978, the Hureau-Belsoeur duo started from scratch, or almost. The first objective is to change divisions: “Being in 3e division, we very quickly had the desire to create a training center, as in Auxerre, which, at the time, was unusual and there were very few in France. Then, with Léonce Lavagne, a man of great moral quality and a leader of men, we went straight to the second division, in 1979. And in 1981 we regained professional status.

“When I’m interested in something, I go all the way, I don’t give up!” On the sidelines of the purely sporting aspect, Jean-Pierre Hureau also had to find enough to finance the development of the club and the renovation of the Deschaseaux stadium “stand by stand”. He then turned to local authorities for grant applications, which was not the case before.
with the town hall [communiste] Le Havre has never been complicated. It was very clear, we worked together, we were going in the same direction, regardless of political colors, in the general interest. Same with Jean Lecanuet for the department of Seine-Maritime.”

Another work in parallel, that of bringing in players. “For that we took care of helping them, accompanying them, finding them accommodation, taking care of the installation of their wives.”

Accession to the first division took place in 1985 after a Le Havre-Mulhouse match marked by the feat of Pascal Pain. The lawn is invaded, even by the spectators who stayed outside the stadium. The crowd waits for the players, shouting. Thousands of people then gather in front of the town hall, blocking traffic. At the Regatta Palace, where a gala dinner is taking place, supporters climb the walls and crowd in front of the bay windows to see the players.
President Hureau then advises to open the doors for an exchange with the players, including Pascal Pain. The next afternoon, the entire HAC team travels to the Rouen fair-expo to take part, between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., in the France radio program “Feuille de match” by Manuel Quesnel.

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“This match was a great moment in my life” nou confide today Jean-Pierre Hureau.

Another highlight of Hureau’s presidency at the HAC was a meeting between the cultural services of Le Havre and the Maison de la culture with the HAC for the organisation, in 1986, of a major international exhibition on the world of football: Expo’ Football. “We managed to bring in some big names: Michael Platini, came from Italy by private plane. And also, which was not easy, Sepp Blatter, the Secretary General of FIFA.

Jean-Pierre Hureau left the presidency of the HAC in 2000. “My great pride is to have restored seriousness and quality to the HAC. We were respected. I think we did a good job. We worked on the reputation of the club. What guided us is that we always referred to the senior club, to this history, to this past. The people of Le Havre are proud of their club, the first French club. And when I left, the bank accounts were all positive, which was not the case everywhere! I’ve always had the principle of saying how much it costs, of being thrifty…”

At the HAC, but also in the highest levels of football, at the federation where he rubbed shoulders with great leaders and accompanied the French team for ten years (including a World Cup), Jean-Pierre Hureau has always defended a certain vision football and the values ​​that he considers fundamental as respect for the opponent and team spirit.

“Things have changed a lot from a hierarchical point of view. The difference all the same now, I think, is that we don’t give it the importance it deserves. Now it’s the big clubs and their financial possibilities.”

He also says he regrets the importance taken by money and the individualization of players to the detriment of the collective. “Finally, I am still very attached to this sport which has been a big part of my life, a good part of my life…”

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the HAC (Havre Athlétique Club) France 3 Normandie will present, live from the Océane stadium in Le Havre, a special edition of its newscasts 12|13 and 19|20 on Wednesday September 28, 2022.

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Among the evocations of the long history of the club, with guests, reports and archive images, a portrait of Jean-Pierre Hureau will be broadcast

In the program :

  • The 1959 Coupe de France final
  • The HAC in the neighborhoods
  • SMC and HAC training centers
  • The portrait of Joël Tiéhi, former HAC striker
  • Norman derbies
  • From Deschaseaux to Stade Océane

> Live and replays of these news to see by clicking here