Marcq-en-Barœul accelerates to become the first Hauts-de-France club in Pro D2

The northern club, which accesses the National 2 (4e division), continues its irresistible rise. He has just launched a fundraiser with a stated objective: to reach the antechamber of the Top 14 as quickly as possible.

How far will Olympique Marcquois Rugby climb, 150e in the hexagonal hierarchy there are still five years? The Marcq-en-Barœul club, in the Lille suburbs, has since swallowed up three divisions and has just entered the National 2 (4e division). And intends not to stop there, as confirmed by its president, Olivier Gradel, in Figaro. “ We set ourselves two seasons to go up to the National. Two to three more to arrive in Pro D2. Then there is the structuring of the project and there is the uncertainty of the sport. You can be the best organized and sometimes fail in the field. We may have to wait a little longer…“You would swear that this is not on the roadmap of this ambitious and hurried leader, as he is teeming with projects to make the OMR the flagship of northern rugby.

At the beginning of April, he thus launched a fundraiser, playing on the local fiber to increase the capital, he who is the main shareholder alongside the association. “We are looking for 1.5 million euros initially. We will launch a second identical fundraiser within two years to complete.” And it works. “At the end of June, we will be halfway to the objective with people who put people between 1,000 and 50,000 euros. I think we will have reached it at the beginning of September. We are in discussion with investment funds capable of making the switch.Namely a dozen investors weighing 60 to 70% of this first bet (against a hundred others, more modest). “Profiles attached to the territorial identity of the project“, specifies the leader. Including for the biggest contributors. “Members of the Mulliez family (which owns, among others, the brands Auchan, Décathlon, Boulanger, Flunch…, the last three being already sponsors of the club, editor’s note) will enter the capital as shareholders.»

This new money, Olivier Gradel already knows how he will use it: “the establishment of a training center to be even more efficient with young people; strengthening of the administrative structure, in particular the commercial unit; the recruitment of experienced players.“One more step in a club already surprisingly structured for the level where it evolves. “We really worked on a communication strategy and put in place an administrative and financial structure to guarantee supervised and sound management.The club, which is going to become 80% professional, will have a budget of €2.5 million next season (including €500,000 for the operation of the amateur association). “We will be in the top 3 of National 2 budgets…»

On the infrastructure side, the OMR can make people jealous

On the infrastructure side too, OMR can arouse a lot of jealousy. “We are extremely spoiled, recognizes Olivier Gradel. We play at the Villeneuve-d’Ascq stadium, worthy of some Top 14 and Pro D2 clubs.“Currently in the renovation phase, the enclosure hopes to host the base camp of a selection during the 2023 World Cup.And then, in Marcq-en-Barœul, the historic heart of the club, we now have, thanks to the help of the MEL, the Region and the City (who have invested 3 M€, Editor’s note) brand new facilities: a superb clubhouse, seven changing rooms and three pitches, including one synthetic. This allows us to work in exceptional conditions.»

“We work hand in hand with the surrounding clubs and the Hauts-de-France League to bring young people into being. Afterwards, you have to be able to keep them. »

Olivier Gradel

With a perfectly framed strategic axis: favoring local talent. “We work hand in hand with the surrounding clubs and the Hauts-de-France League to hatch young people. Afterwards, you have to be able to keep them. For ten years, every year, between 15 and 20 high-potential kids have left the region, approached by Top 14 and Pro D2 clubs. We can’t stop them from leaving. But if we offer them a quality project, half will remain to strengthen our base “, hopes Olivier Gradel.

An asserted regional anchoring which arousesthe support of local authorities since the launch of the project. The Métropole Européenne Lilloise (MEL) and the region have supported us from the beginning because they dream of a big rugby club north of Paris, the 5e metropolis of France. Our strength is to manage to federate the clubs of the Metropolis (eight in number, editor’s note), but also more widely: Valenciennes, Saint-Omer, Hazebrouck… The higher we go, the more we will attract a large audience, including from Belgium“. Olympique Marcquois recently played in the play-off against Oloron in front of 4,000 supporters. A nice score for a match of 4e division…

An interest in the oval ball which should explode in 2023. “Lille are lucky enough to host five World Cup matches. There will be a rugby festival on the Place de la République. We thus hope to double in the next three years the number of licensees in Hauts-de-France (10,500 today, editor’s note). “Always with this tropism of strong local identity, Olivier Gradel aims to bring back “known players, bridgeheads from the region», recalling that a «fifty Top 14 and Pro D2 players started rugby in Hauts-de-France“. This is the case of the Tolofua brothers, the hooker Christopher (RCT) and the third-line Selevasio (Stade Toulousain), trained in Marcq-en-Barœul. “Maybe we can get them back“dreams the president of the OMR.

The episode of the move from Biarritz Olympique to Lille as a “springboard”

The episode of the move from Biarritz Olympique to Lille last summer, which would have destroyed the ambitions of Olivier Gradel, is now a long way off. The leader also now evokes this hypothesis as an opportunity. “A springboard. It put us on alert. We were not immune to a ”takeover bid”. It pushed us to accelerate our structuring, to create an SA, to launch this fundraiser because, in any project, the sinews of war remains money. Yes, it pushed us to question ourselves, to go faster.Was the danger real? He smiles. “I still find it hard to believe in the reality of the project, that such a transfer would have been possible. This would have created a case law that would have caused a hell of a mess. The FFR would probably not have allowed it because it would have been the door open to everything. But I understand what the BO shareholders are going through. They put a lot of money, had made promises on investment returns that were not kept…»

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