- Olympique Lyonnais, which travels this Sunday (13 p.m.) to Clermont, on the 35th matchday of Ligue 1, officially no longer has Jean-Michel Aulas as president.
- After thirty-six years of reign and fifty titles, he has just been landed by John Textor, and he is about to receive a major tribute from Parc OL, on May 27 against Reims.
- A question can almost legitimately arise, given the trace left by JMA in Lyon and his bitter fight to build the OL stadium in Décines: could Groupama Stadium be renamed in honor of its emblematic ex-president?
To what extent will the name of Jean-Michel Aulas, after thirty-six years of a reign hailed everywhere for six days (except by Hatem Ben Arfa), still be omnipresent in the coming seasons on the side of Olympique Lyonnais? This is one of the many questions raised by the abrupt departure of this outstanding builder, having transformed a Ligue 2 club into a seven-time France champion and semi-finalist of the Champions League twice. While he should be absent for the third consecutive match of his club of always, this Sunday (13h) in Clermont, could JMA get the ultimate recognition, namely to have his name attached to the Parc OL? Never in the history of French football had a president fought like him to see a stadium belonging to the club (and not to the city) come out of the ground, so the symbolism would be strong.
"Jean-Michel has really built a remarkable organization, for both the male and female sectors," quickly praised Tuesday the main interested party on the subject, namely owner John Textor. And this beyond football, there is entertainment, technology... It's a huge club, which you feel through its community all over the world. He has great vision, courage, and everything he has created cannot be ignored by anyone. From there to imagine a +++ tribute initiated by the American businessman who precipitated his eviction even before the end of this season, we will not venture it here.
"A fantasy of supporters"
Some Lyon supporters are pushing in this direction, such as Souleymane Niang (19), who runs the GonesSpace account on Instagram. On this one, we saw appear Wednesday a very successful visual of Groupama Stadium, renamed Aulas Stadium. "The man deserves this recognition after building an empire and making OL a world reference," says the student. I make propaganda on the networks so that his name appears on the stadium. This is essential, especially since his departure was really snatched for such a gentleman, which is ugly. However, the naming of the formidable tool launched with Groupama Rhône-Alpes Auvergne in 2017, then extended in December 2021 (until July 2025), remains a strong challenge, especially for a club that has not planned at all to stuff itself four consecutive seasons without participation in the Champions League.
I do not see the owner depriving himself of naming resources to celebrate his predecessor by greatness of soul, says sports economist Jean-Pascal Gayant. The club is counting on these crucial cash flows, estimated at 5.5 million euros per year. Renaming this stadium for Jean-Michel Aulas seems to me to be the fantasy of supporters, before 2025 and even after. »
Contacted by 20 Minutes, the management of Groupama Rhône-Alpes Auvergne did not wish to respond to our request for an interview. "It is premature to express ourselves on this subject, which for us, a private company and current namer, has real impacts as soon as we speak," says Groupama simply.
A situation comparable to the Bernard Tapie Vélodrome
"It would be a beautiful tribute that would make sense," said Maxime (41), a loyal OL supporter. But John Textor will probably try to find a big American namer to increase cash flow from 2025. Finally, could we not imagine Groupama and Jean-Michel Aulas being associated in the title of the stadium? This is indeed the case in Lille, even if the configuration was done in the opposite direction, since the naming contract (until 2027) with the Decathlon brand only saw the light of day last year. Losc fans are going to the Decathlon Arena-Pierre Mauroy stadium this season. We challenge anyone to spontaneously drop this full name in a conversation. But would we hold Lille a viable outcome for Parc OL? "I doubt that this option will be considered by Groupama's marketing department, especially since Jean-Michel Aulas remains a divisive figure in France," said Jean-Pascal Gayant. For example, the namer '' will not take the risk of losing a clientele from Saint-Etienne or Marseille by associating his name with that of Aulas. »
This is understood, and we are therefore not likely to have the French counterpart of the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam anytime soon. The probable status quo of Lyon is reminiscent of that concerning the Velodrome in Marseille. Just after the death in October 2021 of Bernard Tapie, OM icon and former mentor of JMA, nearly 6,000 Marseille supporters signed a petition calling for the Vél' to become the Bernard Tapie stadium. A burst of enthusiasm that the city of Marseille, owner of the enclosure even if the decisions belong since 2010 to the Arema consortium, quickly showered. "The mayor of Marseille can not say suddenly that it will be called the Bernard Tapie Velodrome, explained at the time to France Info Sébastien Jibrayel, assistant to sports of the city. You can't break a contract, you don't have that power. Because in Marseille too, a naming was launched with the Orange brand in 2016 (and until 2026, to the tune of 2.5 million euros paid per year), the stadium having then become the Orange Velodrome.
"In Lyon, we must make him a monument"
In the absence of the name of the stadium, could ex-president Aulas inherit that of a presidential stand? Since its inauguration seven and a half years ago, Parc OL has not yet had the successors of the side stands of Gerland named Jean Bouin (east) and Jean-Jaurès (west). "We could imagine an unofficial name of the stadium dedicated to JMA but it is probably premature," says Richard, a regular at the south bend. It may be more concrete the day he is no longer of this world. On the other hand, it would be the least we could do to give it the name of the presidential tribune. »
Also contacted on this subject, OL did not respond to 20 Minutes, during a week for the least eventful behind the scenes. And if the best idea came from a former international player, never passed by the Lyon club during his career, Claude Makélélé? "What OL has become is thanks to Jean-Michel Aulas," said the former Real Madrid defensive midfielder on Monday. I think that in Lyon, we must make him a monument. Like a statue on the forecourt of the Décines enclosure for the man who has won 52 collective trophies since 1987, combining his record of men's and women's A teams?
"Above the departures of Juninho and Lisandro"
"When we see how much those of Cristiano Ronaldo and Johnny Hallyday have been missed, it seems risky to me, smiles Maxime, our supporter. I will lean towards a mural on the walls of the stadium, as Gérard Houllier and Paul Bocuse were entitled to after their deaths. One thing is certain, all eyes will be on JMA's headquarters for the last two receptions of the season, against AS Monaco on May 19 and against Stade de Reims on May 27. Especially this last match in 2022-2023 in Décines, since the Bad Gones have communicated their desire "to honor as it should be, at the height of the road traveled", their former emblematic president.
Our file on Jean-Michel Aulas
"I only knew him in this position at OL, so the emotion against Reims will still be above what we experienced during the departures of Juninho and Lisandro," concludes Maxime. Above a Gerland in tears, there will undoubtedly be a total communion of supporters with their boss at the heart of the formidable tool. His formidable tool, where he said he lived "the most beautiful day of his life", alongside the American star Will.i.am, during the inauguration against Troyes (4-1) on January 9, 2016.
- Olympique Lyonnais (OL)
- Jean-Michel Aulas
- Ligue 1
- Clermont Foot 63