FC Lens - The Stadium – Stade Félix Bollaert - Capacity – 41,810 All Seater
The Stadium – Stade Félix Bollaert Route de Béthune, Lens There were a few raised eyebrows locally when the decision was made in the early 1990’s to expand the stadium to over 40,000, with a population of the town of Lens at just 37,000. However, such is the passion and interest locally of the team that the stadium is often full. It is a very British stadium, with four steep two teir stands that are close to the touchline. All stands offer unobstructed views of the action The stadium frequently hosts Rugby Union Internationals, and is one of the venues that will be used in the 2007 World Cup Finals and was used in the 1998 Football World Cup including the key games between Germany and Yugoslavia, England and Columbia and the last 16 game between France and Paraguay.
Who Plays There? One of the proudest teams in France, Racing Club Lens were founded in 1905 under the name of RC Lensois. After a few name changes and kits, the club settled on RC Lens in 1923 and adopted the colours of Spain for their first game at the Stade Municipal (later named the Félix Bollaert after the head of the biggest local coal mine). In fact such is the link with the local coal industry that pre World War Two most of the team was made up of local miners.
The club’s identity has grown over the last fifty years as the fortunes of the region have declined. The team have become a reason for hope for many unemployed miners in the region, after the collapse of the industry. Apart from a couple of runners up spots in the French Ligue 1 and French Cup during the 1950’s and 1970’s, the club entered the 1990’s without a major honour to their name.
In 1998, on the back of a real high in French football, the club won its first and only Ligue 1 title to date, pipping AS Monaco under coach Roger Lemerre. The chance of a unique double was in their grasp as well but they lost a hard fought final 2-1 to Paris Saint-Germain in the Stade de France. The league title gave the club a chance to compete in the Champions League Group stages for the first time. Drawn in a group with Arsenal, Dynamo Kiev and Panathinaikos, the team won away at Highbury before a shock 3-1 defeat at home to Kiev eliminated them. In 2002 they again failed to make it out of the group stages after being drawn with AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Deportivo La Coruna. Since then the club haven’t been able to make the Champions League much to their fans annoyance as local rivals OSC Lille have reached back to back Group Stages in the competition.
Since then the team have been a regular in the top six in the Ligue 1 without making a serious challenge for the title. They did win the Interto Cup in 2005, but failed to make the final 16 in the UEFA Cup. This season they will hope to go further in this competition after being drawn with Osasuna, Parma, Heerenveen and Danish side OB.
The current squad is a real mix of internationals including Brazilians, Malians, Serbs and of course French. They have a number of high profile players who recently played in the 2006 World Cup Finals including Eric Carrière, Ivory Coast’s Aruna Dindane and Serbian Nenad Kovačevic. As of the end of October, the team were safely in mid table after four wins out of their first nine league games. However it all went wrong after Christmas. Jean Pierre Papin was fired after a poor set of results, and his replacement the legendary Guy Roux (ex-Auxerre manager of 30+ years) was a fish out of water. Going into the last game of the season Lens, PSG and Toulouse were vying for the final relegation spot. Toulouse's late winner at home to Valenciennes, coupled with PSG's win away at Sochaux meant that Lens's credible draw at home to 2nd place Bordeaux was not good enough and the team that was one of the most feared French teams just a few years ago will be playing their football in the 2nd tier of France next season.
How to get to the Stade Félix Bollaert If you are visiting the town centre, then the floodlights from the stadium are visible from most points, and nowhere in the town is more than a ten minute walk away. If you are driving to the stadium then leave A1/E17 at the A21 junction, then follow to the junction of Lens-Ouest, or the A211 at the Bollaert junction and simply follow the signs for the stadium.
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How to get a ticket for the Stade Félix Bollaert Tickets for most games go onsale around about 3 weeks before the games. Whilst the club continually averages over 35,000, it tends to be the games against the big three that sell out (Marseille, PSG and Bordeaux). Prices range from €12 in the Delacourt Niveau lower tier behind the goal to €60 in the main stand, the Presidentielles Lepagnot area. A good bet for neutrals is the Xerces Louis side stand where tickets will cost €28.
Tickets for matches can be purchased from the stadium in the Emotion Foot shop, by phone on 0825 862 862 or online at http://boutique.bollaert.fr. Tickets are also sold via a number of large Hypermarkets in North France including the Auchan chain in Calais and Boulogne.
Around the Stade Félix Bollaert The Stadium is close enough to the town centre to have a number of bars and cafes almost on the doorstep. There are a number of good drinking establishments on Avenue Alfred Maes which runs south of the stadium. The area in front of the main station in Rue de Gard also has a few good local bars.
Nearest Airport Lens is the largest town in the Picarde area of North France. As a conurbation you could quite easily include the nearby towns of Lille, Valenciennes and Ameins. It is not high on the list of places to visit by tourists, as most prefer to divert up to Lille. The nearest major airport to Lens is Charles De Gaulle, which is some 110 miles to the south. The nearest major Railway station is in Lille – 25 miles away which is a major stop on the Eurostar trains to Brussels. Local services from Lille to Lens run four or five times an hour and take less than 45 minutes.
Driving is the easiest option to reach Lens from the UK. The town is 60 miles down the A1 from the Eurotunnel terminal at Calais. Added to the convenience is the proximity of major Hypermarkets such as Carrefour and you can see why so many British football fans head south to watch games in Lens.