Stuck in Crisis, SM Caen Still Enjoys Strong Popular Support
Results at half mast, a declining game, and hopes once again shattered. The recent defeat against Troyes (2-1) on Saturday, November 4, 2023, confirmed the downward spiral of Stade Malherbe Caen (Calvados) and ultimately led to the departure of coach Jean-Marc Furlan. This is another negative episode in the club’s history, which is currently in its fifth consecutive season in Ligue 2. Since its first promotion to the top flight in 1988, SM Caen has only endured a longer period in the lower division between 1997 and 2004. Despite these circumstances, the supporters have not abandoned the stands of the D’Ornano stadium.
Prior to the coach’s dismissal, there had been growing frustration among the fans for several weeks. However, their discontent never turned into disloyalty. The average number of spectators in the stadium this season stands at 16,323. Although the weather has been favorable so far, SM Caen is performing better than last season, which had an average attendance of 14,005 spectators, placing them fourth in Ligue 2. Against all odds, the atmosphere, led by the passionate Malherbe Normandy Kop, remains festive.
A Strong Identity
So, what explains this unwavering support for a team that has struggled since the end of August? How can we account for the club breaking its subscription record in Ligue 2 this season, despite several challenging seasons in terms of results? Is it due to the renewal initiated by Stéphane Moulin, resulting in 7th and 5th place finishes in the last two championships? Or is it the enthusiasm generated by the successful start under Jean-Marc Furlan, which brought so much excitement during the summer? Certainly, these factors play a role, but there is more to it.
Stade Malherbe has a strong asset. A significant portion of its audience remains loyal regardless of the team’s performance.
This phenomenon is relatively recent and distinct from the Venoix era, when the team’s quality of play justified the fervor among the fans. This mindset aligns with influential supporters, particularly on social media platforms like We Are Malherbe. It seems that embracing self-deprecation and a touch of sado-masochism is part of the identity of these die-hard fans.
A Savvy Communications Strategy
Pierre-Antoine Capton, the chairman of the Supervisory Board and the true leader of the club, understands the value of capitalizing on this wave of sympathy. As a communications professional, Capton, who is also known for his association with the rapper Orelsan, has welcomed the artist into the dressing rooms. This adds a “cool VIP” touch to Stade Malherbe, just like the tribute Orelsan paid to his favorite club in his song “Alone with people around.”
The new generation of supporters is also making its mark. Several fan groups, such as the Normandy stand or “door 6,” are planning to echo the chants of the Borrelli stand.
The enthusiasm for Stade Malherbe is also reflected in the club’s store, which has already seen a 35% increase in turnover from July to October 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Romain Gorlier, the sales and marketing director of Stade Malherbe Caen, predicts that by mid-season, they will surpass last season’s overall business figures.
Despite the challenges, there is a glimmer of hope in the midst of a gloomy November. Both the club’s leaders and the fans would undoubtedly welcome an improvement in the team’s ranking.
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