Government could sell Stade de France to stem losses

The Stade de France could be up for sale after the Olympics, with Paris Saint-Germain and FIFA already linked to the money-losing stadium, sources close to the French Minister of Sports said on Friday.

The sources said the state will next week call for applications to either buy or manage the stadium from the summer of 2025.

The Stade de France was completed in 1995 for the 1998 football World Cup. It will host its second Rugby World Cup final later this year and will be the main stadium for the 2024 Olympics.

The stadium was the site of chaotic scenes at last year's Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid which "almost led to disaster", an independent report released in February said.

The report said European football's governing body UEFA was primarily at fault. An earlier French Senate enquiry blamed poorly-executed security arrangements.

The stadium is owned by the French state but has always been operated by a consortium made up of the two giants of the French construction industry Vinci, with a two-thirds share, and Bouygues, with the rest, who built the stadium.

The contract ends in July 2025.

It has caused endless legal disputes between the state and the operators. The government wants to find a less-costly solution.

Yet it is a challenge to find the right formula for managing an 80,000-seat venue that needs a facelift.

It is also a challenge to calculate how much it might realistically fetch. Estimates put its worth between "400 and 600 million euros" (425 million to 637 million dollars).

Last autumn, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, in dispute with the city of Paris, which does not want to sell him the Parc des Princes, suggested his club might buy the stadium in Saint-Denis.

The notion that his club might move 15 kilometres across Paris and potentially alienate fans, was greeted with scepticism.

FIFA, the governing body of world football, told AFP that, despite reports in French media, it was not interested.

The consortium that manages the Stade de France has not revealed its intentions.

- 'Sports vocation' -

Candidates could be identified "by the end of April" with "first offers in the autumn".

The process will continue through 2024, as the Stade de France install a new athletics track for the Paris Olympics in the summer.

The idea is to "preserve the sports vocation of the facility" and at the same time "preserve the economic and financial interests of the State", said sources close to sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera.

In 2018, the French Court of Auditors calculated some 778 million euros of public expenditure on the stadium and associated infrastructure.

Until 2013, the state paid the operators compensation because the stadium had not attracted a club as a permanent resident.

There was also compensation for the work on the rail lines that serve the stadium.

The operators will also receive "tens of millions of euros", according to the Court of Auditors, for lost events when the Paris Olympic Committee takes over the stadium from December 1 this year.