If you’re already over the Lyon/UEFA love affair, I don’t blame you. The club has been appealing one thing or another since it came into existence in 1950, so the fact that they’ve been in a constant punishment/appeal cycle for the past two years doesn’t faze me at all.
We reported a month ago that UEFA reduced Lyon’s punishment to one closed match with another on probation. That was after Lyon appealed an even earlier sanction for what was pretty shitty fan behavior.
The closed match is scheduled to be Lyon’s first home match in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk on October 2nd. At this point, most clubs would shrug, accept it, and move on – that’s what Ligue 1 rivals Marseille are doing.
But Aulas wouldn’t be Aulas if he didn’t push the envelope. Playing without fans is a huge disadvantage for any team, but it’s especially difficult given Lyon’s poor season start. Additionally, a closed stadium would result in a loss of €4.5m in ticketing, and since our president counts every cent, that is just not acceptable. In fact, given the comments made by the club, the bigger concern is the revenue and not the lack of fan support.
Priorities, you know?
So Lyon have once again decided to appeal the decision to UEFA, who by now are surely tired of seeing “Olympique Lyonnais” appear on their dockets. And to take things one step further, the club is selling tickets for the Shakhtar match anyway.
Yes, you read that right.
The argument is that since they are appealing the closed match, there is a possibility that the punishment will be overturned. If it is, the club feels it will be impossible to sell tickets on such short notice. On the other hand, if the punishment stands, they can just refund the money.
From a business perspective, that makes sense. But it all hinges on whether Lyon’s latest appeal will work. The club’s stadium director believes they have grounds – that the attack on the police happened outside the stadium, that OL offered as much help as they could, that the racist behavior was committed by someone who isn’t an official ticket holder and still banned for life, etc, etc, etc.
UEFA will review Lyon’s appeal on September 20th. They may soften OL’s punishment and remove the closed match entirely, or they may suspend the punishment so that fans are allowed for the home match against Shakhtar, in which case Lyon will play their closed match against Hoffenheim, the easiest of the six group stages matches Lyon have (on paper).
Worst case scenario, UEFA might make the punishment worse, such as making the closed door match the one against Manchester City, but then Lyon will just appeal that decision to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport). And then the cycle will continue.
If we’re lucky, this entire affair can be laid to rest by 2021. But if there’s anything this situation has taught me, it’s that Lyon can appeal their way out of anything. In fact, if it had been Lyon and not Marseille accused of match-fixing in 1993, you can bet that instead of getting relegated, Lyon would have received apology letters from the LFP written on gold leaf stationary.
OL fans hate on Aulas a lot, but when it comes to getting a club out of (legal) trouble, there’s no one better. Just ask Ferland Mendy, who’s landed in a bit of hot water on his own. But don’t worry, Aulas has enough lawyers to multi-task.