Nimes is a French city in the southerly Occitanie region of France. Several famous monuments in Nîmes include the Roman Arena of Nîmes and the Maison Carrée.
Football in Nîmes has existed for more than a century of history. Established in 1901 by Henri Monnier, Sporting Club Nîmois (SCN) was one of the earliest pioneers of French professional football. Dented by World War I, French football gradually awoke again during the 1930’s. At the instigation of Georges Bayrou, Emmanuel Gambardella and the great Gabriel Hanot, French football departed from being an amateur league set up in 1932.
Sporting Club Nimes accordingly moved to the inaugural professional championship Group A and finished in an honorable fifth place behind eventual winners Lille.
However, with professionalism came much bigger financial problems. At the end of the 1934-35 season the club languished in last place in the rankings some 35 points behind eventual title winner Sochaux. This fate would condemn the club to liquidation later that year and the abandonment of professional activities.
It would take another two years, on April 12, 1937, for a new club to be formed. Following efforts from local businessmen, the club moved to the district of Lozère-Gard in Nîmes and was reformed as Nîmes Olympique. Nîmes Olympique’s foundation documents were deposited within the local municipality and the first president was Pierre Chabert.
This new club started the 1937/1938 season in Group B of the French Division 2.
At that time the club played its football at the Parc des Sports Nîmes. On the 8th of August 1937, against the rival neighbours of Montpellier, the club lost 1-4. But regardless of the result football in Nimes was back in business – its first goal scored by the striker Joumard.
The period since the war has been a rollercoaster for Nimes. After a stint in Division 2 at the end of the 1960s, the following decade saw Nimes Olympique play twice in the Fairs Cup in 1971 and 1972 but relegations were also suffered plunging the club further down the league ladder.
The 1980’s and 1990’s saw the likes of Laurent Blanc and Eric Cantona play for the club but for the first time in its history Nimes Olympique were relegated to play in French Division 3 by the season 1995-96.
Now back at the top of the French football ladder the 2018-19 season saw Nimes finish in a credible 9th place ahead of the traditionally stronger AS Monaco, Strasbourg and Toulouse.
Stade des Costières
The Stade des Costières Stadium was inaugurated on February 15, 1989 during a match between the French national team and the Dutch national side. At that time the stadium in Nîmes could accommodate up to 29,487 people but today, with the number of redevelopments, it has a much lower capacity of only 15,788 seats.
The architect of the construction was the Italian Vittorio Gregotti. With its symmetrical stands and unique entry points the stadium is amongst Europe’s newest ‘old’ stadiums but also amongst its most unique in terms of design and appearance.
This status therefore is one of the main reasons as to why a group of people attached to the club (including supporters, a former President and former players) have asked for caution should plans for a new ground be authorized by the local municipality.
The idea for development is that of the current President of Olympique Nîmes, Rani Assaf. The plan carries with it an ambitious project to demolish the stadium and reconstruct it on the same locality alongside housing and retail outlets.
The main sticking points includes the capacity of any new ground which many call ‘too small’ to meet supporter demand. Deeper than that many question the motivations of the President, thanking him for the current success of the team but alarmed at any redevelopment being part of a wider global real estate operation operation. Namely redevelopment will mean a ‘sell on’ to foreign owners at the expense of the club.
Footnote: The city of Nîmes including the local Mayor and the President of Nîmes Olympique, Rani Assaf agreed on the sale of the Stade Costières stadium on Tuesday, June 25. The plan to demolish and rebuild a new sporting venue was agreed at a cost of €8 million euros with the capacity being set at 15,100 seats.
With the required financial support from the President and pending approval of the plan by the local authorities in early July 2019, Nimes Olympique hope to play at the reconstructed venue by late 2024.