• After 36 years at the head of the club, Jean-Michel Aulas is no longer the president of OL since the beginning of the week.
  • A great leader who made Lyon a real stronghold in France and even in Europe, JMA will also remain as a virtuoso of bad faith when it came to defending his club.
  • 20 Minutes has chosen five anecdotes or themes that have helped forge this solid reputation, with the testimony of those who have lived it firsthand.

Since Monday and the announcement of his departure, praise has been pouring in. They are deserved, Jean-Michel Aulas will remain as one of the greatest presidents in the history of French football. From a club that vegetated in D2, OL has become a real stronghold until Europe, with seven consecutive league titles and two Champions League semi-finals.

JMA has also earned a reputation as a virtuoso of bad faith. A characteristic that has helped forge his success but in which he has sometimes lost himself, even if it means damaging his image, as when he roughly implied that Bayern and Schalke were boosted in 2010 or that he minimized the seriousness of the incidents that led to the stoppage of the match between OL and OM in 2021. Examples among many. Failing to compile them, we have chosen five where the now ex-boss of Lyon has let himself be overtaken by his diabolical double, Jean-Michel Mauvais Foi.

The art of arbitration controversy


Looking for all the times when the Lyon boss has expressed his exasperation with the referees is a challenge. All those who have officiated for the last 30 years have been there, whether in front of the door of their dressing room, via the media or directly on Twitter for the youngest. Some examples? "The embarrassing lack of consistency" of Mr. Dechepy on an OL-Lorient in 2021, "the aberration" of a penalty awarded to Neymar by Mr. Turpin a little earlier, the "big mistakes" of Mr. Gautier against OM in 2019 or, older, Mr. Thual who "can not referee at this level and not know the personality of the players" after excluding Källström in 2007. Not to mention the multiple calls for "an explanation" addressed to Pascal Garibian (boss of referees from 2013 to 2022), as probably to his predecessors. In truth, we will miss it.

The witness: Bruno Derrien, Ligue 1 referee from 1995 to 2007

"He is a character who cannot leave indifferent. A real personality. He had chiseled formulas, and not only with regard to the referees. He was in his role to defend his club above all, it's visceral about him. He understood before anyone else that communication was important, so he didn't let anything pass. As a referee, we knew that he was purposely putting himself on the front line to protect his players, his coach or the institution. We should not give too much importance to what he said, take a step back. In general, criticism is constantly falling on the referees, you have to be hermetic to all that otherwise you don't live anymore. He had this impulsive side, in the moment, but basically his relations with the referees were good. »

The day Aulas had d'Ornano's dented lawn noted by a bailiff


On 4 March 2005, OL moved to SM Caen, or rather what remained of it. For coach Paul Le Guen and his president, playing in a trench is out of the question. So, to postpone the match, Aulas invites a bailiff to check the state of the lawn. The officer can put his muzzle in the mud and nod his head to signify that, yes, all the same, it is damn bad this field, the match will take place at the will of the referee. OL will lose 1-0, which will earn JMA to pique a big anger at the microphone of Canal +. "On this field, there were more clods of earth turned over than pieces of grass. [...] The referee was stubborn under the friendly pressure of the Caennais. We lost, the football France must be happy. »

The witness: Regis Duchemin, former gardener of Caen

"As a gardener, it was one of my worst moments. The land was in poor condition following a degradation that began in the fall and had only worsened. It had rained a lot and the ground was completely broken. A real potato field. We could only win on a pitch like that! Aulas had the condition of the lawn recorded. We had won 1-0 so we had a little bit incurred his wrath. But hey, at the time, it was Aulas' daily life. As OL won everything, as soon as there was a pebble in the shoe, he got on his high horses. In any case, I have not been accountable to anyone. After that, we redid the lawn the following summer. »

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The suspension of the 2019-2020 championship due to Covid-19


March 2020, France, like all countries in the world, is in health emergency because of Covid-19. "At war", even, according to President Macron, who confines everyone. On April 28, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe evokes Ligue 1 before the National Assembly: "The 2019-2020 season of professional sport, especially football, will not be able to resume," he said. All Gaul stands behind this wise decision. All? No, an irreducible club president is resisting: Jean-Michel Aulas, while OL is 7th and outside the European places. The leader, who has proposed about 83 ideas to end the season or establish a more equitable ranking in his eyes (white season, ranking established on the last seasons, play-offs for Europe and the descents) takes very badly the refusals and enters into open war against the FFF, the LFP and even the government.

The witness: A former member of the Professional Football League

"I was very surprised that he was fighting this battle. Before Edouard Philippe's announcement, we had worked on a health protocol, but from the moment the Prime Minister says stop, it is no longer debatable. We did everything to be able to resume the championship and Jean-Michel Aulas knew it very well since we had established this protocol with Emmanuel Orhant, the medical director of the Federation and former OL. But that's kind of his problem, in these cases he's in denial. When he's like that, if you tell him that this bottle is blue, he'll tell you no, it's yellow. It is impossible to reason with him, it is as if he were in a kind of intoxication of unreason. There is something that no longer goes to the brain. He knew very well that it was lost in advance, and I am sure his lawyers repeated it to him, but he did not want to stop. He was as if blinded. He is passionate, but at this level it is no longer passion, it is unreason. »

Jean-Michel Aulas, Twitter and "le Café du Commerce"


Arriving with great fanfare on Twitter at the beginning of the previous decade, Jean-Michel Aulas initially tenderized the crowds with his connected boomer side. He responds to the most anonymous of his followers/detractors in an anarchic style, where punctuation is only an option. Everyone laughs, until the day when Lyon's decline goes too far, to the point of losing patience to its supporters, for many hard-skinned tweeters. Aulas always responds, but on the defensive. The blue bird serves as a spotlight on bad faith put at the service of the institution and the coaches in place. His unfailing support for Bruno Genesio, in particular, will cause irreversible dissensions with Lyon's "Twitter supporters".

The witness: Charly Moriceau, alias "Serious Charly"

"The divorce with Aulas began in 2017 with the birth of the famous ''Café du commerce'', an expression used by Bruno Genesio at a press conference. This is the moment when the supporters of the networks begin to be in opposition with the club, and the beginning of a line of defense in which the club had decreed that the real supporters were those who supported OL, as opposed to the other, more critical: the bad supporters. There was absurd stuff like an interview with Aulas in L'Equipe who basically says that supporters who live in Paris influence the youngest and are on a secret mission in the service of PSG. Aulas ended up applying the line of defence at the national level of "alone against all, OL disturb, etc." internally. He made a disenchantment around him because of it. He is a great president but a bad crisis manager. »

When Jean-Michel Aulas flingue L'Equipe


In the scale of Aulas' epidermal reactions, there is the cute little tackle on the networks and the big stick blow via press release. The second option is a privilege reserved for the upper echelons, including the newspaper L'Equipe, scratched several times. Two major episodes to remember. An open letter in 2010, in reaction to an article that reported on Cris' contempt for his coach, Claude Puel ("he sucks"). More recently, in 2020, Jean-Michel Aulas sent an inflammatory letter to the daily, guilty of publishing an article on the erosion of JMA's reputation during the Covid-19 period. It will be published in L'Equipe in the form of a right of reply and coupled with criticism based on the networks. The conflict will run out of steam after the publication of a final editorial, signed by the editorial director of L'Equipe, Jérôme Cazadieu.

The witness: Régis Dupont, journalist at "L'Equipe


"The day this paper is published on the site, around 19-20 p.m., I was surprised to have no answer from Aulas, as was usual. I finally received a phone call from Olivier Blanc [director of communication], who was particularly uplifted. They had seen innuendo where there were none and took in a personal way an article where I had only related the feeling of many club presidents in L1. The next day, JMA sent the big cavalry with this press release where my name is thrown on the OL website. It was pretty unhealthy. I still think that he is the greatest president that French football has known. What is surprising is that he has a balance of power with the media precisely because the press is important to him. In another life, he could have been a journalist. He was one of the last presidents to have a real relationship with us and that was appreciated. »

  • Football
  • Olympique Lyonnais (OL)
  • Jean-Michel Aulas
  • Ligue 1
  • Sport
  • Twitter
  • Lyon
  • Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
  • Rhône-Alpes