Interview | Dougal Bendjaballah: “Mobilize widely to grow Oyonnax Rugby”

Wanting to raise and maintain the Oyonnaxian club at the highest level, its new president reveals his financial, commercial and partnership strategy.

Dougal Bendjaballah, you took over the chairmanship of Oyonnax Rugby after the AGM on 6th December. You replace Thierry Emin, who is vice president. Why this change?

If we want to maintain and maintain this club at a high level, we need new equipment, new investment, as I did ten years ago. But to lead such a project, you need to be able to take it on, including finance. And that is the role of the president.

What are your connections with the club?

In 2011, I sold the Stryker group medical company I founded ten years ago, specializing in hand and foot prostheses, to Memometal. [lire l’encadré Bio express, NDLR]. Then I started thinking about investing in the sport of rugby, which I coached at university, then at club, in Paris and Aix-en-Provence, and which is a real passion for me. The Oyonnax club was suggested to me by my cousin Olivier Perret, a well-known local baker. That’s how I entered the capital, quite strong. I first accompanied President Jean-Marc Manduher and then his successor, Thierry Amin. I joined the board seven years ago. Everything had to be done when I arrived. Our training center did not have the Oyomen factory. I was the one who funded the club before handing it over to the city in return for a commitment to reinvest in the club.

Why do you think it’s important to reinvest today?

In this post-covid era, I reviewed the state of the club in relation to its ambitions and rivals. And the situation is quite shocking. We went from Pro D2’s first budget to its sixth budget in four years, although it remained stable at €10.50 million for the 2022-2023 season. This means that the others have grown. For example, Aix-en-Provence swam between Pro D2 and National. It now has one of the biggest budgets in the division. He has given himself financial, human and structural opportunities to climb to the top 14. This is the case for Vannes, which played in Federal 1 six years ago and now has a 12,000-seat stadium and sports center. New training.

Oyonnax Rugby’s historic partnership with industry and local private structures forms a significant part of our budget at €4 million. But this wealth has decreased. Many partners have lowered sails. Some are gone. Apart from the economic events, maybe they are tired? Maybe we haven’t demonstrated our ambitions enough? Not to mention the glory, Oyonnax Rugby generates almost €20 million for the town, between our events which appeal to the families of the players and local service providers who live and consume the site. We are creating a form of circular economy. Our potential partners don’t understand that it doesn’t last forever. Due to a lack of resources, you risk dropping out within five or six years and finding yourself just struggling to stay in the professional world.

When we compare ourselves, we see clubs from the same class, which managed to gather together all the economic players in their region. We don’t.

We know that Oyonnax Rugby’s strength and weakness is its large number of SME partners. How many do you count today?

We bring together 350 partners. And that’s quite a feat because we have the smallest population base in professional rugby. Indeed, we will never find a sponsor who will give us 10 or 20 million euros a year. Our model must be built. It has to match our ambitions and economic realities. It can take inspiration from La Rochelle, which manages to bring together up to 5,000 partners around its events. Today, all of Brittany is behind the club. To get into the top 14 and stay there, at leastthe budget is between 17 and 18 M€

How do you plan to achieve this?

We will play at several tables. Now we need to mobilize all local economic actors so that they participate more in the development of the club or simply participate. We will then invest commercially in neighboring areas where we are not, Haute-Savoie, Savoie, Jura, Plaine de l’Ain… To this end, the teams have been reorganized around Guillaume Jean, head of the commercial department. center.

In the medium term we will rely on the base created by the associate part of Oyonnax Rugby: Oyo’Sphère. We have educational collaborations with various clubs from Strasbourg to Aubenas, which allows us to identify youngsters who can develop at the highest level. That’s why we want to be known as a big eastern club. In this context, we have started preparing contract projects for redistribution to clubs in the sphere of partnerships that we were able to achieve thanks to them. This can form an important breeding ground.

We’ll also use our national visibility to find partners that don’t need to be local. To do this, we had to identify a keyword that made us different. It will be originality, Oyonnax playing authentic rugby. It is a means of obtaining larger multi-year budgets.

And to organize all this, a managing director was appointed last year in the person of Gregory Di Marco. We have also decided on a capital increase of €1.20 million for this season. With €450,000 already received last year, this will bring the total to €4 million.

We have defined the road map. The whole club must unite around this development strategy. Among other things, we want to mobilize state bodies, which are also ambassadors.

Oyonnax rugby

Oyonnax Rugby has 33 sports contracts and a 15-man squad, with a budget of €10.5m for the 2022-2023 season, €4m of which is provided by around 350 partners. After last season’s 450 thousand euros, the club is preparing for a new capital increase of 1.2 million euros, which will bring the total amount to 4 million euros.

organic express

  • November 5, 1967 : Born in Saint-Claude (Jura).
  • 1991-1995 : After an MBA from Harvard in the US, Dougal Bendjaballah started his career in finance at American Express.
  • 1995-2001 : Started his first business in medical trading before selling to Johnson & Johnson.
  • 2001-2011 : A second company was created, Memometal. It will be sold to the Stryker Group, which specializes in hand and foot prostheses.
  • 2011 : Oyonnax enters the capital of Rugby.
  • 2017 : Creation of Keri Medical, a company specializing in hand and wrist orthopedics. Straddling Geneva and Archamps (74), with a factory in Besançon (25), it employs 100 people for a turnover of 20 million euros.
  • December 6, 2022 : President of Oyonnax Rugby.

Sebastien Jacquart

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