General American Capital Partners (GAPC) is the new owner of Bordeaux football club. To restore the Griondins to their former glory, GAPC handed the reins to former Olympic gymnast Frédéric Longuépée. The new President at the Matmut Atlantique spoke to Leaders League.
Leaders League. tell us a bit about your career.
Frédéric Longuépée. After concluding my career as a top athlete, I started at EY. I had several missions, although two in particular stand out – Amaury Sport Organization and the French Organizing Committee for the 1998 World Cup – which gave me the desire to make the switch over to a sports occupation. This milieu has become deeply professional. It has irreversibly changed. Top-level sport must, in my opinion, ban "associative" management, which belongs to small-town clubs. The role of a leader is to run a sports clubs like a major company. My passion for sport is today directed towards this transformation.
Would you say that this passion led you to take risks?
It has indeed, taking risks is unavoidable because it is a niche market. France is a great country but it’s one which loves to hire people with conventional backgrounds. For each job, you must have gone to the right schools, amassed the right degrees. Unlike Anglo-Saxon countries, France hates atypical profiles. It is difficult to work in an audit firm with a history or biology degree, which is possible in the UK. The reality is that we are confronted with recruiters and companies that take almost zero risks. And yet what wealth they would have by welcoming diverse profiles from different backgrounds and universes!
What are the values that drive your work?
I work with a lot of humility. Roland Garros or the Girondins de Bordeaux were there before us and will be here after everyone currently at the club is gone. Institutions are always stronger than the individuals that make them up. On the other hand, I have a strong desire to make my mark and leave the club in better than it was when I arrived.
Can a football club president still act with passion in the modern world?
You have to be passionate; otherwise you wouldn’t devote so much time and energy to the job. Your passion must be put at the service of everyday tasks, without becoming intoxicated by it. There are many similarities with a company. Training of young footballers can be likened to R&D. Winning over fans and spectators is a marketing approach. What changes is the nature of the activity. A football club requires employees to have a very level of professionalism in all disciplines and so brushes off associative management. We must be fully dedicated to this activity to meet the expectations of our supporters.
Bordeaux have a loyal but demanding fanbase. How do you reconcile the passion of the fans for success with the economic reality of running a mid-table club?
It is essential to respect the club in which you work. Bordeaux is a big name in French football, we’ve won the league six times. It would be incredibly disrespectful to want to shake everything up with a snap of your fingers. But we must drive change by investing wisely and at the right time in people and structures. This club deserves to be in Europe more regularly and we need to continue to keep improving in order to reach that point. It would be pie in the sky to expect a different result by continuing to employ the same methods.