August 1, 2011

France: the 3 promoted clubs from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1, for the 2011-12 season (Évian TG, Ajaccio, Dijon).

Filed under: France — admin @ 7:04 am

The 3 promoted clubs in Ligue 1

Note: to see my latest map-&-post of Ligue Un, click on the following: category: France.

Two of the three clubs promoted to Ligue 1 will be making their top flight debuts – Ligue 2 champs Évian, and 3rd-place-finisher Dijon. Dijon secured promotion on the final day of the season, besting 4th-place-finisher Le Mans on goal difference, this despite losing their final match. The other promoted club is from the Island of Corsica – AC Ajaccio – and the club returns to Ligue 1 after a 6 season absence.

Actually, Évian Thonon Gaillard have won promotion for 2 consecutive seasons. Évian TG are from the Haute-Savoie department of the Rhône-Alpes Region of France and are situated in Gaillard, which is a border-town near Geneva, Switzerland. However, Ëvian TG currently play their home matches in Annecy, which is around 35 km. (22 miles) south of Évian’s headquarters in Gaillard. The stadium in Annecy is called the Parc des Sports, has a capacity of only 12,243, and has a running track. [The club also has, as part of their training facilities, a 2,000-capacity stadium in Gaillard.] Gaillard has a population of 11,000, and is part of the Greater Geneva metropolitan area. Geneva’s metro-area population is around 1.2 million [note: it's unclear how many Swiss citizens from the Geneva area go to Évian TG matches...I would guess of the 5,555 per game that Évian TG drew last season, less than 500 came from across the border in Switzerland. After all, it's a border crossing, and then another 35 kilometers, from Geneva to Annecy].

Évian Thonon Gaillard FC are a club that came into existence as the result of two different recent mergers, the first occurring in 2003, when FC Gaillard (established 1924) and FC Ville-la-Grand (established 1928) merged to form Football Croix-de-Savoie 74. Football Croix-de-Savoie 74 won promotion from the 4th division Championnat de France amateur in 2004 (in their first season), by finishing third, but still winning the sole promotion-spot for their regional league (Groupe B section) by virtue of finishing behind 2 ineligible-for-promotion teams (the teams that finished in 1st and 2nd place that year in Groupe B were the reserve squads of Oyimpique Lyon and FC Metz). Once in the 3rd division National, relegation was narrowly avoided in 2004-05, but Football Croix-de-Savoie 74 went back to the wilderness of the 4th division and the regional leagues in 2005-06.

2006-07 saw the club undergo another merger, this time with Olympique Thonon-Chablais, with the resultant club being known as Olympique Croix-de-Savoie 74. The club also moved their headquarters from Thonon-les-Bains, on the south shore of Lake Geneva, around 34 km. (20 miles) west to Gaillard. In 2007-08, after being forced to play in the 6,000-capacity stadium back in Thonon, rather than their much smaller stadium in Gaillard, the club won promotion back to the 3rd division (the National). Here is a link to the news archive of the official Évian TG site, that shows several photos of the last match of the 2008-09 season, and the last time the club played in Thonon, and the last time the club played under the Croix de Savoie name, { }.

In the summer of 2009, Franck Riboud, the president of the large French food products multinational corporation Groupe Danone (marketed as Dannon in North America and famous for yogurt products such as Yoplait, and Évian bottled water) was named the honorary president of the football club, and Groupe Danone acquired the club. It was then (2009) that the club changed it’s name to Évian Thonon Gaillard FC. It was also then that the club started wearing kits {see this} that look like an Évian water bottle (pink/white/sky-blue trim). In 2009-10, in the first year with the new name and the new look, Évian won promotion to the 2nd division. But again, thanks to promotion, the club was stuck playing in an inadequate stadium, and were forced to look elsewhere than the stadium in Thonon. For a while it appeared that Évian TG would begin play in August 2009 in the French second tier in Switzerland, in Geneva’s 30,000-seat Stade de Genève, but UEFA listened to complaints from Swiss second division club Servette FC (who play in that stadium [and who were recently promoted back to the Swiss top flight]). Despite the support of the French football federation (FFF), UEFA decreed that Évian were not allowed to play at Stade de Genève. So the club were forced to settle for the small stadium a half-hour’s drive south, in Annecy (note:’s page on Annecy, {here} has a nice picture of a very old turreted stone building right on the water in the town-centre of Annecy). Annecy is on the shores of a smaller mountain lake, Lake Annecy, which is known as ‘Europe’s cleanest lake’.

In January, 2011, Évian beat French giants and then-reigning champions Olympique Marseille in the round-of-64 stage of the Coupe de France. In May, 2011, after completing their first season in the second division, Évian won their second consecutive promotion, and will now play their first season in the top flight in 2011-12.

Note: On the map page, the locations of Évian’s current home ground in Annecy, the club’s former headquarters and former home ground in Thonon, and the club’s current headquarters in Gaillard are shown. I’m guessing some folks out there are curious where the source of Évian mineral water is. Well, I balked at showing, on the map page, the source of Évian mineral water (that would set a precedent which would mean I would also have to show, say, where the Red Bull factories are located, on my map of football in Austria), but it’s a couple towns east of Thonon, in Évian-les-Bains {here}.

Évian TG have signed former Udinese centre back and Ghana international Jonathan Mensah to a 4-year deal, {see this (from }. Former Lyon winger and French international Sidney Gouvou has been signed by Évian on a 2-year deal, as mentioned in the following link…From, ‘Ligue 1 special: A look at newly-promoted Evian Thonon Gaillard FC ‘.

AC Ajaccio are the largest football club in Ajaccio, which is the largest city on the Island of Corsica. The population of Ajaccio is only around 65,000. [In case you are wondering, SC Bastia are the only other club from Corsica with any first division history; and the other sizable club from the city of Ajaccio is the 4th-division-club Gazélec Ajaccio.] AC Ajaccio play in red-and-white-vertically-striped jerseys. Athletic Club Ajaccien was formed in 1910, and their first ground was on the site of a former sand dump. They moved soon after to a ground which held 5,000 spectators, on which they played until 1969. Their current ground, the 10,600-capacity Stade François Coty, hasn’t made it that far from their sand dump days, though, as you can see by one of the photos on the map page here – some of the ‘seating’ there consists of concrete slabs. I think the folks watching the public stonings in the film Life Of Brian had better seating than those concrete slabs in Ajaccio. Sheesh. Anyway, AC Ajaccio will be making their first appearance in Ligue 1 since a 4-year-spell which lasted from 2002-03 to 2005-06 (where they never finished higher than 14th place). 2011-12 will be Ajaccio’s 11th season in Ligue 1. Ajaccio averaged 3,422 per game last season in Ligue 2, and their highest recent average attendance was in 2002-03, when they drew 4,840 per game. That’s dire, but remember, the club plays in a city of less than 70,000. And despite having the smallest operating budget in Ligue 1 this season (of just 16 million Euros), Ajaccio have made a pretty big signing in luring over from Mexico City the former Club América goalkeeper and Mexican international Guillermo Ochoa. From, ‘Guillermo Ochoa snubs Paris Saint-Germain to join AC Ajaccio‘.

Dijon FCO are another club that owe their recent rise to a merger. In 1998, Circle Dijon Football and Dijon FC merged to form Dijon Football Côte-d’Or. It’s actually way more complicated than that, but I have still got a headache from untangling Évian TG’s origins, so you must forgive me if I simply direct you to the Dijon FCO ‘Arbre généalogique‘, or family tree, at the page on Dijon, {here}. Dijon FCO are from the Côte-d’Or departement of the Region of Burgundy, 262 km. (162 miles) south-east of Paris, and 174 km. (108 miles) north of Lyon. The city of Dijon has a population of around 151,000 {2008 figure}. Dijon play in all red kits, and their kit badge features an owl in flight. Dijon FCO are renovating their Stade Gaston-Gérard in stages, and will next be in the fill-in-the-coirners stage. The stadium has a running track. Stade Gaston-Gérard used to be a 9,000-capacity stadium, and currently it holds 16,000. I had a real hard time getting any aerial images of the stadium as it currently looks, let alone any decent photos of any of the new stands, so the Dijon fansite at the following link really saved the day…Photo of Tribune Nord and Tribune Est from, here, here. Here is one of those architect’s renderings of what Dijon’s renovated stadium is planned to look like {from, {click here for architect’s rendering – to see it, scroll down to bottom of page and click on image}. [Note, I could not find any projected-completion-date for the renovated stadium.] Dijon were drawing around 3,500 per game in 2008-09; around 5,400 per game in 2009-10; and increased their crowds again to about 7,500 per game last season, so this is a club that has a fan base that is growing at a nice pace. And the club’s ambition is evident in their stadium redevelopment, which will result in a 22,000-seat stadium that is fully covered and will have no running track. Hooray for that.
Dijon will be keeping a considerable amount of players from last season. Still, they have done OK in the transfer market, signing former Bolton centre back and Côte d’Ivoire international Abdoulaye Meite, and Japan international Daisuke Matsui, a winger who has played in Ligue 1 for Le Mans, Saint-Étienne and Grenoble.
From, ‘Ligue 1 special: A look at newly-promoted Ligue 1 side Dijon FCO ‘.

Photo credits -
Évian Thonon Gaillard…Aerial photo of Parc des Sports d’Annecy) by Lucien Fortunati at [Tribune de Genéve], here. Exterior photo from Ville dÁnnecy via, here. Photo of stand with mountains of the Apls behind it from, here. Photo of fans in Main Stand from the official site, here.

Dijon FCO…Aerial image of Stade Gaston Gérard [before construction of Tribune Nord (North Stand)] from’s Eye satellite view, here. Interior photo of renovated Stade Gaston Gérard from, here. Photo of Tribune Nord and Tribune Est from, here, here..

AC Ajaccio…Aerial photo of Stade François Coty by Michel Luccioni at, here. Interiotr photo of stade François Coty from, here.Photo stands at Stade François Coty by Julia&Stoffi at, here. Photo of Ajaccio fans with banners from, here.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at, ‘2011-12 Ligue 1‘.
Thanks to Ligue 2 site, for attendance figures, here.
Thanks to, for the 2010-11 Ligue 2 final table.
Thanks to Yahoo! Babelfish for French translation.
Thanks to the Évian TG site [in French].

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