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Lyon invests in EuroLeague club, reveals arena plans

French Ligue 1 football club Olympique Lyonnais has completed a deal to acquire a minority shareholding in local LNB Pro A basketball team ASVEL, along with providing further details about plans to establis a dedicated events arm and the development of a new arena it claims will be the biggest in the country outside of Paris.

The announcements were made at a press conference on Saturday, with the strategic partnership with ASVEL to result in the acquisition of a 25 per cent stake in the men’s LDLC ASVEL team for €3.4m ($3.87m) and an investment of €300,000 for a 10 per cent stake in women’s team Lyon ASVEL Féminin.

ASVEL is owned by French National Basketball Association (NBA) legend Tony Parker and confirmed earlier this year that it was hopeful of securing a minority investment from Lyon. The Villeurbanne-based team is searching for extra investment after it gained a wild card place in the top-tier continental EuroLeague basketball competition for the next two seasons.

Lyon said its partnership with ASVEL will allow it to benefit from the international image and reputation of Parker, particularly in the United States and China, territories where parent company OL Groupe intends to continue to develop. The agreement also provides for synergies between both clubs, particularly in ticketing, sponsorship, seminars and general commercial activities.

OL Groupe president Jean-Michel Aulas said: “We have sporting ambition, we want to grow. The goal is to become a reference point, we want to become an international brand. We plan to provide our support over a long period to be competitive on the European level.”

Parker added: “Our ambition is great. OL has always been an example for us. We can all progress together. We will stay at the Astroballe with a goal to make it even more beautiful. Our base will always be the Astroballe. The new arena will meet the specifications for the EuroLeague. We’ve signed the biggest deal in French basketball history.”

ASVEL has historically received strong backing from the commune of Villeurbanne, situated northeast of Lyon, and local officials had been concerned about the potential loss of their team to Lyon. However, the two parties have said all LDLC ASVEL matches will be played at the club’s current Astroballe home until the opening of Lyon’s proposed new arena.

The new arena is proposed to be the home of certain high-profile EuroLeague matches once it is operational. Aulas revealed that Lyon was planning to develop a new arena in February. Aulas, speaking as OL Groupe presented its financial results for the first half of the 2018-19 year, said the arena would accommodate 10,000 to 15,000 people and would be part of Lyon’s OL City venture.

Lyon opened its Groupama Stadium in January 2016 and is seeking to engage in a five-year strategic plan to diversify its revenue streams. On Saturday, Aulas updated the media on Lyon’s arena plans, stating that it will be able to hold between 15,000 and 16,000 people for concerts and 12,000 for sporting events.

The arena will be located near the stadium and the tram station for easy access and will be able to host 100 events per year. Aulas said it should be commissioned by 2023-24. OL Groupe will retain full ownership of the new arena and will also be in charge of its operation.

Aulas added: “The project was born from a simple observation and a need for the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region – to create a new event room capable of organising shows and major events. This new arena will be able to accommodate 15,000 to 16,000 people, making it the largest event hall in France outside of Paris.”

Finally, OL Groupe has joined forces with Olympia Production, a subsidiary of Vivendi, to announce the creation of a new annual music festival. This festival will be named ‘Felyn’ and will be held for the first time on June 19-20, 2020 at Groupama Stadium.

A joint venture called OL Production is being formed to organise and manage the festival, which will be a major event promoting the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Ownership of OL Production will be shared equally between OL Groupe and Olympia Production.

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