The UEFA EURO 2016 legacy project - which has funded football-related infrastructures in the ten French host cities - has had a telling impact in the Saint-Étienne region.
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The UEFA EURO 2016 legacy project, through which each of the tournament’s ten host cities were given €2m to invest in football-related infrastructure, has had a tangible and lasting impact in France, and nowhere more so than in and around Saint-Étienne, where 18 new facilities have been built for the benefit of 24 different communes.
EURO 2016 may have ended nine months ago, but it is having a lasting impact in and around the ten host cities thanks to a €20m legacy project aimed at developing football-related infrastructure. In Saint-Étienne, for example, the authorities decided to divide their share of the funds among different communities in the greater urban area to create a network of infrastructure and encourage people to play at their local clubs. They limited the level of funding for each community project to €170,000 for the construction of new facilities and €68,000 for renovation work, with the proviso that all grounds should meet the standards required to host competition matches.
Jean-Jacques Fradin, director of sport at the local authority of Saint-Étienne Métropole, describes how the projects were selected: “Rather than investing the whole €2m in a single project, we wanted the money to benefit as many people as possible across the 45 communes that make up our metropolitan area. We wanted EURO 2016 to leave a lasting legacy throughout our urban community of 400,000 people. The initial €2m attracted additional funding that brought the overall investment to €12m, which is an enormous sum for an area of our size.”
Managed by the communes themselves, the new and renovated grounds provide amateur players with much nicer, better-equipped facilities, which offer a real boost in terms of attracting and retaining players and increasing the game’s overall appeal. “In the city of Saint-Étienne, which has a population of 170,000, we decided to invest in a pitch that anyone can use, whereas in the surrounding communes, most of which have fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, we focused our efforts on facilities for clubs and their players. That is why all renovated pitches had to be capable of staging competition matches,” says Roland Goujon, the Saint-Étienne Métropole local authority’s vice-chairman responsible for sport.
“We didn’t want to pour all our resources into one location, but to share the funds among 18 stadiums in 24 municipalities. That way, the local impact was obviously much greater. In an area like ours, which has a great football tradition, all our clubs have lots of registered players, and they were all able to benefit. Some still played on dirt pitches or on very old grass. These projects improved training and playing conditions, which in turn led to an increase in the number of registered players.”
‘A real godsend’
One club that benefited is Roche-Saint-Genest, which straddles the municipalities of Roche-la-Molière (population: 10,000) and Saint-Genest-d’Erlept (6,000). Despite being barely 10km from the centre of Saint-Étienne, these two large villages are in a very rural area. At an altitude of about 500m and with winter temperatures plummeting to around -10°C, playing football in winter used to be something of a challenge. However, thanks to the legacy project, the old dirt pitch, which had certainly seen better days, was replaced with a state-of-the-art artificial pitch with floodlights that could be used for regional and district competitions.
The club’s president, Stéphane Kunz, explains: “Our grass pitches used to cause problems because the local authorities wanted us to go easy on them. Depending on the time of year, up to three official matches can be played on a pitch every week: one on Saturday, one on Sunday morning and one on Sunday afternoon. But in winter, you can’t play more than one match a week, and sometimes none at all! So we converted our old 100m by 60m dirt pitch, which we hardly ever used because it was usually unplayable and even dangerous in winter, into a 105m by 68m artificial pitch. It’s a real godsend for training and matches in winter. Unless it’s covered in frozen snow, we will be able to use this pitch all the time.”
In terms of tangible benefits, half of the 18 clubs that benefited from the EURO 2016 legacy project have seen a significant increase in their numbers of registered players, while the others now enjoy greatly improved training facilities for all age groups: “For the small municipalities that used to have dirt pitches, the improvement in playing conditions is phenomenal, not only for the adults but also for all the youth teams, both boys and girls,” Roland Goujon explains.
“To sum up,” Stéphane Kunz adds, “this sustainable investment has enabled us to increase both the quality and quantity of our training sessions. Not only that, but our club’s brand image has also been enhanced in the minds of our 500 registered players and their families. Finally, and this is perhaps the most important thing, people who might want to join us – players and coaches alike – find the club more appealing now. It’s given us a boost in every sense of the term.”
€2m divided by 18 equals €12m
The 18 projects that received legacy funding were spread across 24 different communes in and around Saint-Étienne and the initial €2m from UEFA stimulated matched funding that brought the total investment to €12m.
1. Cellieu Chagnon – renovated
2. Fraisses – renovated
3. Roche-la-Molière – newly built
4. Le Chambon-Feugerolles – renovated
5. Lorette – newly built
6. L’Étrat/La Tour-en-Jarez – renovated
7. Saint-Priest-en-Jarez – renovated
8. Saint-Héand – renovated
9. Firminy – newly built
10. Génilac – newly built
11. Andrézieux-Bouthéon – newly built
12. Saint-Joseph/Saint-Martin-la-Plaine – newly built
13. Saint-Christo-en-Jarez – newly built
14. Saint-Étienne – Etivallière – renovated
15. Saint-Étienne – Etivallière – newly built
16. Saint-Victor-sur-Loire – newly built
17. Rive-de-Gier – renovated
18. La Fouillouse - renovated
This article originally appeared in UEFA Direct No167