I did not apply, they came to take me. I never applied spontaneously, and the context, with the epic summer and determination we got from the outside, wasn’t really encouraging. I had planned something else but Sebastian Menard approached me, convinced that I was the one he was looking for. We took the time to meet and talk. What convinced me was his commitment. I’ve come with a shepherd who shuts the door after six months because he’s frustrated with the results or because he’s not moving fast enough, and who tells me ‘take your son under your arm and go back to Reims’, I was unconcerned. With Sebastian, our commitment is mutual. We are not guaranteed success, the challenge is too big…
I did not apply, they came to take me. I never applied spontaneously, and the context, with the epic summer and determination we got from the outside, wasn’t really encouraging. I had planned something else but Sebastian Menard approached me, convinced that I was the one he was looking for. We took the time to meet and talk. What convinced me was his commitment. I’ve come with a shepherd who shuts the door after six months because he’s frustrated with the results or because he’s not moving fast enough, and who tells me ‘take your son under your arm and go back to Reims’, I was unconcerned. With Sebastian, our commitment is mutual. We have no guarantee of success, the challenge is very complex, even more than any of us can imagine, but we will not run away.
In which state did you find the club?
Bruises with tired staff. The start of the season is a busy period where you have to recharge your batteries to restart the machine and people get tired because they have been left to their own devices so much in recent months. The structure suffers, even more so with the pressures of financial difficulties. We don’t have a lot of jacks to fix. Freshness and smiles, it feels really good. Take care of the human side, too, by evaluating them by telling them they have a role to play in this project.
“It is a realistic budget that takes into account the very heavy obligations that have damaged the territory.”
Ilan’s image is damaged. How do you plan to fix it?
With Sébastien Ménard and Sylvain Bonnet (editor’s note, president and majority shareholder) we are trying to reconnect with all parties, to send strong, more concrete and realistic messages. When the project was very beautiful and bloated, people were happy and we saw the result. We did not come up with a written project and this breeds impatience. You have to understand that the only project, at this time, is to live from day to day, to take concrete actions: stick to the sporting level, activate our partnerships, fill the room, because that is what will allow us, perhaps next June, to present ourselves. We won’t do anything extravagant or bling because we can’t afford it and that’s not what we’re looking for. Today we do not have a long-term vision, what concerns us is to solve the problems we have inherited. Everyone who contacts us are people to whom the club owes or has not fulfilled its obligations, they are volunteers or associations frustrated and disappointed by the lack of experience sharing. We want to show that we can trust Elan again and that we have to support this club because he has a soul. And if one thing is not touched, it is his soul. People still love this club.
So the roadmap is survival?
This is it. It is not an exaggeration to say that you have an oxygen mask on your face and you have to keep feeding him, or else Ilan will die. The club submitted a budget in July to get it back into the Betclic Elite and it was reworked and submitted again on September 15. It’s a realistic budget that takes into account the exorbitant commitments that hurt the region, because it’s never good to have a reputation for being a poor payer, and the previous team’s performance was a real malfunction.
What is the amount of this reformulated budget?
We are still between 4.5 and 5 million euros. There is still 1.3 million euros in debt to be settled and partners that need to be reclaimed. We are faced not with mistrust but wisdom. It must be remembered that when we build a budget, we make predictions but we do not control everything, especially at the level of marketing. What we can control better is to apply pressure so that we have a team that goes into battle. We must “go back” to La Moutète and all do battle together.
“I won the right to run the club thanks to this diploma, not thanks to titles as a player”
To increase this budget, what levers can you activate?
Frankly, it’s complicated to look ahead and think a little more when we’re working to finalize a budget to repay our debts. But the diversity of activities and promotion of events are obvious ways. We have places that can accommodate something other than basketball. Bao was the first to create a basketball court, and it was with the Cholet club that sent the first players to the NBA, and over time people may have rested on these achievements, while others, such as JDE Dijon, did so. She developed a very strong brand, or Bourg-en-Bresse. If we want to move towards more self-financing and less dependence on local authorities, we have to be proactive.
How is your role here different from the role you played in Charleville-Mezière and Nantes?
My first experience in Charleville, the process was associative and it was a very small structure. I learned that the euro really weighs the euro because we were financially motivated. And in the year when the athlete did not succeed, he exploded in all directions and experienced economic repetition. In Nantes, I lived through complicated times with a ubiquitous administration, which has difficulty delegating, with long and conflicting decision-making processes. Here, with Sylvain and Sebastian, I have a feeling that we complement each other better, and I with my experience in professional sports and my experience in outdoor communication, and the development of the brand which is an important lever for the development of sports today.
When general manager Tom Houston is named, we doubt he won’t get involved in the sporting side. When Audrey Surrett is, legitimacy is there. What is your location?
We do not have a sports director, so the link is direct with the coaches. As a former player, I understand some of the necessities. My role above all else is to manage the club. I leave the hand to the coach but of course I will take care of what happens on the ground. I know Eric very well (editor’s note, Bartikki, coach) and there is no difficulty in talking together, we already did. Sometimes it’s good to have a little outside opinion. The first decision I had to make was to tell him that he had to leave the team in his place, and that there would be no extra player.
You are often said to be the only female GM in basketball. Is it a source of pride or are you tired of broaching this topic?
This is not a discussion for me. It’s not something I highlight. I am proud that I was able to cross this bridge between these two worlds by earning my degree at the Center for Sports Law and Economics in Limoges. I won the right to run the club thanks to this diploma, and not thanks to my titles as a player. Of course I want to show that women can succeed, can encourage others to give them responsibilities, but it is also a message to these women to tell them that you have to dare. Even if the world has changed tremendously and there is still a lot to do for a woman’s place, we must not wait for society to give us things, we must impose ourselves.