TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE have set their sights on a swift return to Super League and a new era under a new chairman and management structure.
The championship’s second-placed side have responded to “damaging headlines” in a French newspaper which stated the club was on the verge of bankruptcy and had sought a financial rescue package from local government.
Chief Executive Cedric Garcia spoke exclusively to League Express about the reports which were repeated on social media and could have had serious implications for the club and its relationship with its new owner.
Current President Bernard Sarrazain has been keen to hand over the club to a younger successor and a Toulouse businessman, whose name will be revealed when the formal handover takes place, has agreed to take the reins.
Garcia said: “We are in a good place and we have been extremely diligent in the handover of the club to a new owner which is why the story in La Dépeche newspaper was so frustrating.
“It’s not so much the information in the story, it’s no secret and it has been published before that our season in Super League resulted in a big financial loss and we have been working on it for many months now.
“It’s the headline, to put a headline on that story saying that Toulouse Olympique is near bankruptcy is so damaging to us. Like many clubs we have been through difficult times but we have worked hard to resolve things and we can now look forward to a bright future.
“This was a story about the past when the real news is that Toulouse has secured itself financially and it is investing in the future.”
Garcia has previously stated that the Olympians made a heavy loss during their brief stint in Super League last season and he explained the details of the recovery plan.
He said: “We had an equity increase by shareholders in March and since then the future chairman has been working on securing funds to ensure the club is financially sustainable in the long-term.
“One part of it was receiving help from the local council, and this was confirmed in the French media ten days before this article appeared in La Dépeche newspaper.
“The council’s input represented around 25% of the funding we needed and the rest came from our partners (sponsors). On the back of that our new chairman told us he was ready to take over.
“Now we are working on the legal papers and a meeting of the shareholders to officially announce our new chairman, which will happen in three to four weeks’ time.
“The article in La Dépeche came about because the council wanted political publicity to show that they support sport in Toulouse, which is natural, except in the article it was all about them and not the other people who provided the other 75 per cent of funds that we needed.
“There are two individual sponsors at our club who both brought more than the council’s contribution but they were never mentioned which I think is a little disrespectful.
“We know how it works, the local newspaper is under pressure from the council so they published an article, but the headline was catastrophic.
“The timing was totally wrong, the day before it was published I had already met with the players to explain about the takeover and our new chairman.
“The mood here is really positive, the spirit is fantastic and our players and staff have stuck together. Our main motto is TOgether and we are all heading in the same direction.”
Garcia said the club will make a formal announcement on its new owner following legal formalities with shareholders and he paid tribute to outgoing President Sarrazain.
He added: “Over the past ten years Bernard has brought us from an amateur club to Super League and his financial support has been incredible.
“He will continue to support us as a director but he is keen to see his successor bring something new to our club.
“We will be changing the governance structure of the club and Bernard will still be a big part of things here. He has been wanting to step down for a couple of years now but he needed to find the right person to step in.
“Bernard is a very well-connected businessman in Toulouse but he knows he cannot bring to the club what he brought ten years ago.
“He is keen to see someone take over the club with a fresh vision and new energy to take us forward and he is happy to hand over the reins.
“Our new owner has a million ideas and a lot of energy and he will bring many things to this club.”