Sochaux was forced into Chinese ownership and Nenqing failed to generate the necessary cash

PARIS, July 13 (Reuters) – French side Sochaux were relegated from Ligue 2 to the third division after their Chinese owners, the Nenqing Group, said the club failed to secure financial guarantees to keep them in the second tier.

The DNCG, the body that controls the clubs’ finances, announced Sochaux’s managerial demotion last month, despite them finishing ninth in the league standings — 10 points above the relegation zone.

The team is one of the founding members of the French league and appealed the decision, but the DNCG upheld their expulsion earlier this week.

Sochaux said they had „severely reduced” the club’s wage bill and transferred players to cut costs, but needed insurance from Nenging Group to cover the projected shortfall until June 30, 2024, which did not materialise.

„Given the situation in the Chinese property market which has worsened again in the second quarter of 2023, the Nenking Group is unable to generate sufficient cash to cover FC Sochaux-Montbeliard’s (FCSM) projected deficit,” the club said.

“Therefore, it was without this evidence of bank transfer from China that FCSM appeared before the DNCG Appellate Panel…which upheld the decision to downgrade to National 1.

„The management of FC Sochaux-Montbeliard shares the grief of all the club’s supporters and staff and regrets the consequences of this situation.”

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The club said they were working to present a new budget plan that would allow them to play in the third tier next season.

Nenging Group, a private company based in southeast China’s Guangdong province, did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for an explanation of why it had withdrawn from helping the French club.

There was no mention of Sochaux-related news on the team’s official website or official social media accounts on Thursday.

Instead, the group still proudly lists its acquisition of Sochaux on its „About Us” page, saying it bought the club in 2020 „to expand its reach in the European football industry”.

The club was founded almost a century ago by the French automobile company Peugeot and they won the top division league title in the 1934–35 and 1937–38 seasons.

They also won the French League Cup in 2004, while their last major trophy came in 2007 when they won the Coupe de France, the country’s premier knockout cup competition.

Peugeot sold the club in 2015, when they were in the second tier, and its ownership changed from Letus to the Nenqing Group, who formally took over the club in 2020.

At the time, the club’s newly appointed executive director general Samuel Laurent said Nenqing Group chairman Zhang Nyxiong wanted to restore the club’s status as a top team in „three or four years”.

Chinese football has been rocked by several similar incidents in recent years.

In 2021, Chinese Super League (CSL) champions Jiangsu Suning have suddenly been informed by their owners Sunning Group that the club will cease operations.

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Before that Guangzhou FC, formerly CSL heavyweights Guangzhou Evergrande, were hit hard by the impact of massive debts faced by their owners, Chinese property giant Evergrande.

Reporting by Zifan Liu in Paris, Rohit Nair in Bangalore and Martin Quinn Pollard in Beijing; Editing – Christian Radnedge

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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