Photo credit: Facebook Olympique de Marseille

A victory and a general fight at the end of the match. Olympique de Marseille have won the first edition of the EA Ligue 1 Games (2-1), a new pre-season competition to promote the French championship in the United States, against Saint-Etienne Sunday, July 21 in Washington.

But the goal seems only half filled for the Professional Football League (LFP). Audi Field Washington (20,000 seats) has struggled to attract spectators with only 500 people in the stands for the two matches on Thursday 18 (ASSE-Montpellier and Bordeaux-OM), and about 3,500 on Sunday 21 (Bordeaux-Montpellier and ASSE-OM). "We will have to bring more people next year, better promote this tour", concedes the president of the LFP Nathalie Boy de la Tour. The clubs, however, played the game like AS Saint-Etienne, who invited supporters from France and the United States to matches, training and a lunch at the hotel players. The OM has meanwhile organized Saturday, July 20 a meeting between his clubs of American supporters in the presence of the new coach of the team, the Portuguese André Villas-Boas.

On the field side, the show was more than a rendezvous despite hot temperatures (35 to 40 degrees) on Washington. "We played both games here in difficult conditions but we still produced a lot of things. In the end, we win and that's good, especially for the trust, " summed up goalkeeper Marseille and Team France Steve Mandanda late Sunday. An end of meeting tainted by a general brawl in the additional time after a push of the Stéphanois Wesley Fofana on the Marseille midfielder Morgan Sanson, proof that the two teams had not come to Washington to make the figuration.

The EA Ligue 1 Games also had to face competition from another tournament very well established in the United States, the International Champions Cup. This friendly mini-championship brings together every summer for seven years the gratin of European football like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus.

Despite this half-hearted balance, Nathalie Boy de la Tour prefers to retain "The positive aspects, especially the quality of Washington's infrastructure, the coaches have all underlined". She also promises to "Come back stronger" next year, with the tournament scheduled for at least three seasons. To succeed in this task, the LFP can rely on the sports marketing agency Samba, represented by Jean-Philippe Dubois. The company helped to organize this first tournament, and supports notably Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne in the development of English content on their social networks.

The American owner of the Girondins de Bordeaux, Joe DaGrosa has invested 75 million euros in the club in 2018. For him, European football and Ligue 1 represent significant growth opportunities. "Our priorities are China and especially the United States, which is the world's largest sports market", explains the contractor, for whom "European football is the sport of the future: baseball is on the decline, basketball and football are becoming single-digit growth, and" soccer "is the most popular sport among young Americans. ) s ".

Since the LFP learns from its mistakes, the EA Ligue 1 Games will change formula in 2020, with the integration of US teams and other teams of Ligue 1, hoping for PSG. It will also win the battle of TV rights to hope to win in the United States. Ligue 1 is currently reporting only 70 million euros a year abroad, far from its European neighbors like the English league and its billion euros of income.


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