No, it wasn’t the Handball Coupe de la Ligue Final, it was the French Soccer Champions Trophy: A one off match annually held between the Ligue 1 winner and the French national cup winner to kick off the new season. For the record Bordeaux beat En Avant Guingamp, 2-0 in front of 34,000 fans, Saturday afternoon at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Not a massive crowd, but more than the semi-prestigious match has been able to garner previously in French venues. I’m not an expert on French soccer, but according to this Wikipedia article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophée_des_champions it looks like the match is often played at smaller stadiums as kind of a showcase for the provinces.
So, why am I posting about French soccer at Team Handball News? Well, there are some interesting contrasts and parallels that can be made relative to French Handball’s initial foray this past Spring in Miami. Both events were somewhat daring attempts to market a lesser known sport outside of France in North America, but only one event was able to garner a respectable crowd. Why?
1) Soccer has a long, long way to go before it approaches the popularity of hockey and probably many other sports in Canada, but it’s at least on the radar map. Also, as the NY Times article points out, it wasn’t the first time a good soccer crowd has shown up in Montreal.
2) Montreal has a strong tie to France. It’s a language and cultural thing. Even though the French soccer league is a step below the other leagues in Europe, that fact doesn’t matter in Quebec. It also explains why 40 kids from Montreal took a 30 hour bus trip down to Miami to see the Handball Coupe de la Ligue. Maybe they would have made the same trek for a Bundesliga match. Then again, maybe not.
3) Perhaps an investment with a professional sports marketing company, European Football Group http://www.europeanfootballgroup.com/index.php?section=about_history, was money well spent. Pure speculation on my part, but I’m guessing they probably did something right. Even still, they couldn’t get Fox Soccer Channel to air the match for free in North America.
Regardless of why they were able to draw a decent crowd, Handball fans can take heart with the fact that inroads can be made even in the heart of Hockey country.
Bordeaux Wins French Champions Trophy in Montreal: http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/24/french-champions-trophy-game-in-montreal/