Last modified: 2015-04-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Luzenac AP - Image by Ivan Sache, 14 September 2014
The municipality of Luzenac ( 551 inhabitants in 2011) is located on
river Ariège, 35 km south of Foix, 120 km south of Toulouse, and 40 kmnorth of the borders with Andorra and Spain.
The Luzenac talc, which represents nearly 10% of the world production of talc, is processed at the Luzenac plant. Raw talc is extracted from the nearby Trimouns quarry. Exploited by the Société des Talcs de Luzenac since 1905, the plant and the quarry are now part of the Imerys group.
The local football club, Luzenac Ariège Pyrénées (LAP) has been in summer 2014 the unfortunate hero of a soap opera that revealed the - already well known - opaque governance of the French professional football and taunted even more the image of its official bodies.
The club was originally established on 20 August 1936, as Union Sportive des Talcs de Luzenac. In 1980-1984, the team played in the 3rd League. Renamed in 1992 Union Sportive de Luzenac, the club won in 2009 its group in CFA (Championnat de France Amateurs, that is, the highest league in amateur football), and was allowed to play in the National (3rd League) championship.
Renamed in 2012 Luzenac Ariège Pyrénées, the club hired Fabien Barthez (born in 1971 in the nearby town of Lavelanet), the legendary goal-keeper of the French national team that won the 1998 Word Cup, as its President of Honour, and, in 2013, as its General Manager. The team obtained in June 2014 the 2nd rank in the final classification of the National championship, which allowed the club to join Ligue 2 (2nd League) for the 2014-2015 season, and to apply for the professional status.
On 5 June 2014, the Direction nationale du contrôle de gestion (DNCG, National Directorate of Management Control), the organism in charge of checking the club's accounts, did not validate the operating budget of
Luzenac AP, which automatically prevented the club to join the 2nd
League. This was confirmed on 3 July by the Appeal Commission of the
DNCG, which prompted the club to appeal at the French Olympic Committee (CNOSF) for conciliation. The CNOSF confirmed on 21 July the decision of the DNCG. The next day, the club applied at the Toulouse Administrative Court, which suspended the DNCG decision and required the organism to re-evaluate the case. The DNCG eventually validated the club's accounts on 7 August.
In the next episode, the Board of the Ligue de football professional (LFP, Professional Football League) rejected the incorporation of Luzenac AP to the 2nd League championship because the club would not play in a stadium compliant with the LFP regulations. The club answered they had an agreement to play in the Ernest-Wallon stadium, the stadium of the Stade Toulousain rugby club, and threatened to require the suspension of the 2nd League championship (which had already started, on 1 August) from the Toulouse Administrative Court. Asked for conciliation, the Ministry of Sports answered he had no competence on the case. Since the Ernest-Wallon stadium required some work, the club signed an agreement with the municipality of Toulouse to use the Stadium (the stadium of the Toulouse Football Club) in the mean time.
On 22 August, the CNOSF issued a positive, although only consultative, recommendation on the incorporation of the club to the 2nd League. However, the owners of the rugby stadium said they would not sign any agreement until the situation of Luzenac AP is clarified, which blocked once again the procedure. The Board of the LFP announced on 25 August a conciliation, but withdrew the proposal a few days later. On 4 September, the Administrative Court rejected the club's appeal.Luzenac AP gave up on 5 September, stating they would not apply at the State Council, and required to be re-incorporated to the National championship. The French Football Federation rejected the request on 10 September, asking the club to play in CFA2 (5th League). The board of Luzenac AP resigned and decided to dissolve the professional section, keeping only the reserve, fully amateur team, which would play in DHR (7th division).
The Luzenac fiasco was widely aired in the media as a critical example
of the unbalanced struggle of the amateur clubs against the professional establishment. Luzenac gained a wide support, especially in the south-west of France, where notables such as Jean-Pierre Bel, Senator of Ariège and President of the Senate, and René Bouscatel, the influent President of the Stade Toulousain, publicly supported the club's struggle. While the board of Luzenac appears to have been too confident and careless regarding some administrative procedures, the organisms chairing the professional football did everything to prevent Luzenac AP to access the 2nd League. It has been pointed out that other, richer or more famous clubs were allowed to play in the 2nd, or even in the 1st League, in spite of a non-compliant stadium and a controversial budget. The association of the amateur clubs asked for the resignation of the ever-lasting presidents of the FFF and of the LFP, and to the adoption of more transparent rules of management, most probably to no avail.
In spite of the sad end of the case, Luzenac is still the smallest town in France with a football club that played in the 3rd League, in CFA, and in National championship.
The flag of Luzenac AP (photo) is vertically divided blue-red-white, with the club's emblem in the middle, concealing most of the red stripe.
The emblem of the club is a red disk bordered in blue. The border ring is inscribed with the club's name, in white capital letters. The central part of the emblem is charged with three blue vertical stripes and the white silhouette of a mountain range and a Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica Bonaparte; French, isard), superimposed with the blue letters "LAP" outlined in white.
Luzenac AP supporter's flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 14 September 2014
Supporters also use a a blue flag with a red horizontal stripe at the top and at the bottom, and the club's emblem in the middle. This flag (photo, photo) appears to be home-made, with slight variations in the representation of the emblem and inscriptions added in the red stripes.
Ivan Sache, 14 September 2014