HomeCyclingPEZ Bookshelf: Le Fric - PezCycling Information

PEZ Bookshelf: Le Fric – PezCycling Information

In 1978, the American R&B group Stylish had a monster world hit with the track “Le Freak,” and folks in France, noting the lyrics “C’est stylish!” thought it referred to “le fric,” pronounced roughly the identical approach as French slang for cash. Cash—whether or not you name it dough, bread, loot, ducats, folding stuff, moolah, clams or no matter—is on the coronary heart of the enterprise {of professional} sports activities and in Alex Duff’s new ebook, “Le Fric,” some mild is shed on that peculiar establishment that’s the Tour de France.

le fric

The blurb on the again cowl reads: “On the Tour de France, the most important winner on the financial institution is just not the bike owner who makes it to Paris within the yellow jersey—it’s the secretive household that owns the race.” And that might be the Amaury household and the way they got here to personal the Tour is a captivating story, which doesn’t appear to have been advised a lot in English-language publications. The primary a part of “Le Fric” is about Émelien Amaury, who arrived in Paris as a poor boy from Étampes, aged fourteen, and set about working in eating places, washing dishes and clearing tables. His trade was famous by a newspaper proprietor, who discovered him employment in his promoting division after which, when his protégé confirmed extra promise, established him in his personal promoting company. Amaury rise was not stunted by World Struggle II and the occupation of France by the Germans. He performed together with the Vichy Authorities of French collaborators, getting juicy contracts for print work, whereas on the similar time in Paris his crews had been printing up Resistance paperwork by night time.

Amaury was near Normal Charles de Gaulle and when the Liberation got here in July 1944 an interim authorities was established that wished management of the nation’s press in the proper palms. Publications that had labored with the Nazis had been mainly confiscated and, given new names, had been turned over to those that had connections to the Resistance. Amaury was capable of get management of Le Petit Parisien, one of the crucial standard and worthwhile newspapers within the nation, which was renamed Le Parisien Libéré, and started to accumulate regional publications as properly. His timing allowed him to get half possession of l’Auto, the sports activities publication which managed the not-very-profitable Tour de France because the proprietor, Jacques Goddet, was in some problem because of his obvious helpfulness to the Germans. L’Auto was renamed L’Équipe, with Goddet remaining in cost and left to his personal units on the newspaper’s vibrant places of work in Montmartre. Amaury was not a lot fascinated with sports activities in any respect.

The ebook tells of the origins of the Tour and the way it grew slowly. Despite early worldwide participation it remained very French in character and seemingly caught in a bucolic previous. It made so little cash that the publicity caravan was invented to pay the payments and prize cash was doled out stingily. Ultimately Goddet’s dangerous enterprise selections left him financially weak and Amaury ended up shopping for up his curiosity within the newspaper in 1968. Amaury’s press empire was not with out its personal issues, much like what was taking place within the UK, as trendy printing tools required far fewer staff and mass firings passed off, with appreciable resistance—together with protests on the Tour.

Trendy media modified the character of the Tour as first radio pushed apart newspaper studies after which tv stepped in however this enhanced protection and larger curiosity past France didn’t change the enterprise nature of the race. After Émilien Amaury’s demise in 1977, his son Philippe took over to run the newspapers and a brand new division, the Amaury Sport Group. ASO owns not solely the Tour de France but in addition Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Good and different basic bike races in France and Belgium, together with a share of the Vuelta. And as sponsorship brings in an increasing number of cash to the Tour, its significance now outstrips that of the newspapers to the household.

Not like the enterprise preparations that characterize {most professional} sports activities right this moment, corresponding to Method 1, soccer or gridiron soccer, the Tour de France stays conservatively caught prior to now. Groups obtain a small quantity from ASO—in all probability not even sufficient to cowl the fuel payments for the workforce vehicles for 3 weeks—and nothing from tv rights or sponsorship cash. Moderately, annually the Amaury household shareholders, who’re Philippe’s octogenarian widow and his two kids, break up one thing on the order of 10 Million Euros in dividends. They’re completely satisfied to proceed doing so for the foreseeable future.

“Le Fric” recounts two makes an attempt by go-getters to try to modernize professional biking as a enterprise however with out the Tour de France any try to do a World Sequence of Biking is doomed. After which Wang Jianlin, one of many richest males in China, made a suggestion for the race however was firmly turned down. There actually isn’t any technique to put strain on ASO–the race is just too vital as workforce sponsors count on a presence on the Tour. The writer cites the strike at Wimbledon that put energy into the palms of the tennis execs or the reorganization of Method 1 by Bernie Ecclestone as examples of the modernization of professional sports activities however the parochial nature of the Tour truly works towards its internationalization. ASO works in shut cooperation with the French authorities, which subsidizes the race to a excessive diploma recognizing its invaluable advantages for tourism promotion, and has had a decades-long association with French public tv. The Amaury household is unwilling to threat the household jewel and, since they maintain all of the aces, one can perceive why. They view the race as nearly a public good, a logo of France. At one level the French nationwide lottery, FDJ, truly thought-about shopping for the Tour as a technique to forestall it from each falling into international palms however, after all, it was not on the market.

Though the Amaury household approaches the Tour in a really conservative approach, there have been a number of modest stabs at modernization when a Harvard-trained supervisor was introduced in and a few improvements tried, such because the Tour “villages” initially and end, with their VIP areas to entertain sponsors (long-established in different sports activities). Nonetheless, the Tour is the Tour and he didn’t final lengthy.

The writer had the chance to talk with Jean-Etienne Amaury, son of Philippe and part-owner of ASO. The household’s presence on the Tour is sort of invisible; on the annual unveiling of the Tour route, Jean-Etienne speaks (very) briefly and the race is left within the administration of pros. It seems that the founder’s successors should not a lot secretive as simply not very fascinating. They act to guard their pursuits, as illustrated when the UCI tried to dictate to ASO and the matriarch labored out a settlement. It’s instructive to learn concerning the origins of the UCI, which was for a few years an basically powerless group run by a handful of volunteers—and financed by l’Équipe!

Whereas the writer supplies particulars of the 2 makes an attempt to modernize professional bike racing as an entire, with some cloak-and-dagger accounts, with out ASO’s acceptance these had been all the time doomed to failure. Alex Duff spices up the ebook with tales of biking’s huge doping scandals and the way they may have put the Tour in danger. The Festina Affair of 1998 was the primary time proof of complete doping was going down was revealed however the Tour continued in 1999 when there was the “Tour of Redemption,” gained by Lance Armstrong and we all know what adopted. After Operation Puerto, when Spanish authorities investigated many sports activities figures, German broadcasters shunned displaying the Tour de France for 3 years however returned in 2014, albeit paying far much less for tv rights than that they had beforehand.

The problem of creating bike races work was proven by the instance of Velon, the group arrange by 11 professional biking groups in 2014 to run their very own races. The Hammer Sequence of races, which included some modern knowledge transmission new to professional racing, ran from 2017 to 2020 however conflicts with the UCI ended that initiative and Velon stays a modest effort.

“Le Fric” is a ebook a couple of skilled sport that’s behind the occasions and seems to be content material with that. The story behind ASO is an fascinating one and the writer has interviewed lots of the gamers who matter, together with workforce managers, potential traders, and has painted tremendous portraits of post-war Tour de France figures, notably Jacques Goddet and Felix Lévitan, however there’s fairly a forged, from the Chinese language billionaire to Jean-Luc Lagardère, who wished to broaden his companies (making missiles) to incorporate newspapers like l’Équipe, to Jean-Claude Killy, Olympic skier after “le fric” and really well-paid to defend Amaury household pursuits.

As to “Le Freak”…it was so standard {that a} French financial institution used it because the soundtrack to their tv commercials. C’est stylish!

le fric

“Le Fric” by Alex Duff
314 pp., illustrated, hardcover
Constable/Little Brown E book Group, London, 2022
ISBN 978-1-4087-1669-4

  • “Le Fric” by Alex Duff is accessible from AMAZON.COM.

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