December 23, 2019
Rivère: ‘I never felt more confident’
Chairman, how do you judge the first half of the season?
We knew that this was a transition year. It’s been a little bit harder than planned so far, but we know the reasons for that. In any project, you have to give it time. Things will fall into place, I’m positive and I hope that in the second half of the season, we will start reaping the rewards of all the hard work of these last few months to improve things.
Can you feel a certain impatience from the fans?
Yes, of course. That’s natural. We can understand that reaction, we hear them. We can see that the stadium isn’t full, that the results haven’t been great…
But a lot has happened this year… In addition to the arrival of INEOS at the end of August, we had to hold onto, or even improve, our defence, that was one of the best in Ligue 1 last season (equal second-best with PSG with 35 goals against) and reinforce the squad with attacking signings and everyone said: OK, it’s done, OGC Nice will bet better this year. But it’s never that simple.
Unfortunately, we had lot of injuries and we were never able to field our best XI. I also know that you have to give new signings time to settle in. There were also those players that were already here that suddenly thought: Now we have a great team. No, we have a lot of work to do, as a team, to perform at our best.
We are thinking long term, like we always have. The aim is for OGC Nice to be a regular fixture near the top of the standings. That is our challenge. I am very confident in the future of this project. I never felt more confident.
Today, the club has big goals, but we have shareholders who know that it takes time to achieve them. It takes time to build. We want to move up, to grow. This is going to require a lot of work from the whole club. The little tensions that were present at the beginning of September are all being ironed out. We are finding a working osmosis and everyone is now pulling in the same direction.
We saw this confidence in your support of the coach when the results weren’t so good and the rumour mill was turning…
It is during the tough times that you can really judge your relationship with someone, not when things are going well. We got through the tough times. There were a lot of rumours. That difficult period will actually help us to grow faster than expected. We've made a lot of progress together, and in a short time, on a human level. Foundation have been laid. That period will make us stronger for the future.
There have been a lot of changes within the club over the last four months…
Our ultimate goal is to achieve excellence. For two and a half years, we were stagnating. We weren’t able to do much. If anything, things were gradually unravelling, even if it wasn't visible from the outside. Today, we have the opportunity to put all the ingredients into the club, whether it be administrative, sporting, medical... A host of details will help us succeed.
Is one of those most recent ‘details’ the junior academy transferring under the direction of the professional section?
It has been a topic of discussion within the club were several years… During our previous period at the club, we tried, but it was very complicated. Now we are delighted that we have managed.
Our determination. We didn't do things by force, but we were very determined. This new project has given us the strength to say: those who wish to move forward are welcome to join us, and those who don't, we will advance without them. Of course, there was some strong opposition. But we also had intelligent people who shared our vision of the future. And we are going to build it together. That is very satisfying. For us, this is a fundamental element of what OGC Nice can be like in four or five years. We know that people are not going to wait that long. But I reiterate, our role is to try to get results as quickly as possible while planning for the future of the club. And really, on this point, I think we've taken a giant leap forward.
You built a lot here, then you left, and now you have returned to take this project further still. Has your approach to your job changed over this period?
No, not in the way we work. We are always extremely careful on the financial aspects, but we have to admit we have a new freedom to work with that we never had before. That's the biggest difference. It's going to take time and the project is structured; we're not going to rush into anything. But it's a project that moves the club into a new realm. Perhaps the general public can’t see it today, but we know where we want to go and we know we're going to be given the opportunity to get there.
‘Coming to the stadium is playing your part in building this project’
We could see you were very happy to be back in September. Is that still the case?
I wasn’t happy for myself, because I didn’t leave so that I could come back. I left so that there could be a change of ownership. That was our biggest battle for several months and, in all honestly, when it finally happened, we were all truly happy with the result. It was very difficult, but we did it. On a personal level I am very happy working in football, but I’m also happy without it. We returned to an exciting project, but also a lot of work and worries.
When you returned to the club, you also returned as vice-president of the College of Ligue 1 clubs. What does that role entail?
A lot of decisions taken by the governing bodies have an impact on French football, and as a result, also on OGC Nice. So it’s important to be there and play a role in that process. We are taking part in the progress of our football and can make sure the club has a voice.
In general terms, how are you approaching 2020?
With the desire to do whatever it takes to develop this project. I hope the quality of a football and our results will improve. But again, we have never played our best XI, we've had a lot of injuries and it's been very difficult. A team that is used to playing together develops understanding and cohesion and we never had that. I hope that we'll be spared injuries and that the players will be able to show all their talent in the second half of the season.
As a chairman, are you afraid of failure?
No, not afraid of failure. But we are never sure of success either. You never know for sure that things will go well. But when I spoke of confidence earlier, I feel it very strongly, because I tell myself, we did what we had to do for the club. That wasn’t the case when we left in January, we hadn’t out everything in place. Today, we have the perfect shareholder for the club. The workload to reach our goals is huge, but we have the tools to do it.
What are you goals for the second half of the season?
We never told the coach we need to finish in a certain position on the table. We will do our best so that the coach, the staff, the players, everyone, tries to find the best solutions to finish as high up the table as possible. It’s a team effort. Then, above and beyond the results on the pitch, we need to keep developing and improving the structure and organisation of the club, the results of which will sometimes be visible and sometimes invisible, each as important as the other.
And finally, what do you wish for the New Year for all those that love Le Gym?
First and foremost, good health for them and their loved ones. That my personal wish. After that, I want them to have confidence in the future of OGC Nice, that they keep supporting the club because when you go through a tough period, like earlier in the season, their presence is indispensable. And my final wish is that they come to the stadium. You mustn’t just wait until everything is going well, you have to play your part in building this project!