Toulouse Olympique’s new owner sets out stadium, Super League and Grade A ambitions

TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE are embarking upon a new chapter under the leadership of OLIVIER DUBOIS, aged 43, the owner of Autobuy (an electronic sales platform for professional vehicles) and a major sponsor of the club for two seasons.

Dubois, in his first full interview since succeeding former president Bernard Sarrazain, told League Express’ STEVE BRADY about his plans to establish the club as a permanent presence in Super League and his ambition to create a central training and development centre and eventually a new home for the entire club.

SB: Congratulations on your new role as president. Is it a relief to finally make the official announcement after the recent rumours linking you to the post?

OD: “The takeover took time because it was complicated and there were a lot of essential details to consider, but I can finally say that I am the new executive chairman and it is a huge honour to be at the head of such a proud and historic club.

“It’s no secret that there were financial problems that we had to settle after our year in Super League, but former president Bernard Sarrazain wanted to resign and I wanted to intervene, so we started on this simple basis and we got there.”

SB: Will we see many changes at the club under your reign?

OD: “With Cédric Garcia as sports director and Sylvain Houles as head coach I have two people in my team who are great for Toulouse Olympique. I have made no secret that I want Sylvain to continue as coach and hopefully there will some news on that soon.

“There will be changes for next season but it is also important to build continuity. I am very happy with the administration, coaching, performance and medical staff.

“The players and the staff at the club have worked miracles to keep us so competitive and, although we lost the Grand Final, we feel we had a very successful season.

“It is our job now to build upon that successful core. I feel so confident that we will strengthen the areas we need to improve upon.”

SB: Do you plan new signings for the playing group in 2024 and when will they be announced?

OD: “It is clear that we need to strengthen the playing group. The mentality within this club is amazing; for us to go through the 2023 season with such a tight budget and small playing group is incredible.

“We started the year with only 19 players but this allowed us to rebuild the value of our club around young French players. We had to integrate several of our Academy players into the first team and we will announce several new professional contracts for young French players in the coming weeks.

“But it is clear that we will have to find new recruits for the first team and these will be announced in due course.”

SB: What is the importance of investing in the development of young people in Toulouse?

OD: “My goal is to develop a unified development centre for young players. Right now we are meeting and training in different places and we have had some success, but if we want to be more attractive to young French boys and girls, we need to have a single modern facility.

“This is so important to me. Our Academy has already attracted many young hopefuls, but having an appropriate performance centre would show that the club is committed to development.

“This is crucial for our future; we need more young French players in the ranks and in the professional team. Toulouse is an incredibly sporty city, as is the entire Occitanie region and there are many options for young people.”

SB: Will the new training centre be at the Ernest Wallon Stadium?

“I am very happy with our relationship with Stade Toulousain, which owns the stadium, and we have very nice facilities. We are happy to work together in the same stadium, and we have a lease at Ernest Wallon until 2029. But I think the ultimate goal would be for us to have our own stadium.

“In the medium to long term, we want to become a force in the Super League, but the main ambition is to have our own facilities, not just a single performance centre, but our own home as a professional organisation.”

“This is something I want to open as soon as possible.”

SB: Can Rugby League succeed as an autonomous sport in Toulouse, which has such a strong rugby union support base?

OD: “The two codes are not the same rugby and not the same spectator base at the moment, but Toulouse is a large city of nearly half a million inhabitants and it is quite possible to have successful football, rugby union and Rugby League clubs.

“If I didn’t think that League could succeed in Toulouse, I wouldn’t be here. It’s a historic club with huge roots in the city and we plan to grow.

“We are only 14,000 inhabitants from becoming the third largest city in France (after Paris and Marseille) and in the next two to three years we will overtake Lyon.

“This city is growing; there are so many fans to attract and our season is pretty much when other sports aren’t playing.”

SB: Did the recent illustrative grading by IMG for the Super League in 2025 give you confidence for the future of the club?

OD: “I am very satisfied with the IMG ranking (category B in tenth position), but I am not surprised because the former president and staff did a good job in building this club and we knew we would be around that mark.

“But there is room for improvement in many areas and that is our long-term goal. Our short-term goal is for next season for us to continue to be in those top twelve teams, but our main aim is to become a Category A club.

“It’s not enough to have the ambition to be in the Super League, you want to be among the best Super League clubs, just like our friends from Catalans Dragons.

“We will constantly work to improve our ranking and this is happening now.”