STADE DE LA BEAUJOIRE - CAPACITY: 38,486 ALL SEATER
About the Stade de la Beaujoire The Beaujoire was designed in the early 1980’s as a replacement for FC Nantes compact Marcel-Saupin stadium that was located in the same area, and to meet the demand for a new west coast stadium for France’s bid to host the European Football Championships of 1984. Out went the old steep terraces and basic seating and in came a brand new stadium full of curves and sweeping stands and a significantly increased capacity at over 53,000.
The stadium hosted its first match in May 1984 when FC Nantes played a friendly against the Romanian national team. Just a few weeks later the stadium welcomed the French national team hosted Belgium in a sell out group match of the Championships. A Platini-inspired performance saw Les Blues beat their neighbours 5-0. The stadium also hosted Portugal versus Romania, although a 24,000 crowd was disappointing.
Fourteen years later, after a multi-million Franc redevelopment which saw the stadium converted into a 38,000 all seater ground, Le Beaujoire hosted a number of games in the 1998 World Cup Finals, including Brazil versus Morocco, Spain versus Nigeria, USA versus Yugoslavia and the quarter final between Brazil and Denmark.
The stadium is certainly unique in design. Two huge Tribune stands that sweep upwards in the middle provide a focal point for the stadium, whilst behind the goals the smaller Visage stands are intimate and home to some of the most focal supporters in France. Who plays there? The stadium is home to FC Nantes Atlantique, who up until a few seasons ago were one of the most feared teams in France. Their eight French Championships make them one of the most successful teams in the domestic leagues – however, the club went from champions in 2001 to bottom of the table in 2007 – one of the most spectacular falls from grace in French football and ending a near 45 year run in the top flight.
The club won their first honours in 1965 when they captured the French league, repeating their feat a year later. Over the next couple of decades they won four more Championships. Between 1976 and 1981 the club set a record for remaining unbeaten at home for 92 matches. In 1995 they completed their greatest Championship when they narrowly pipped Paris Saint Germain, Auxerre and Lens to the title, recording 32 games without defeat in the process. The following season they competed for the first time in the Champions League. Drawn in an easy group with Panathinaikos, Porto and AaB, they gained a vital point away in Portugal to go through to the quarter finals. A 4-2 victory against Spartak Moscow took the Canaries through to the Semi Finals where they met the mighty Juventus. Facing a 2-0 deficit from Turin, Nantes put on a brave show back at the Beaujoire and nearly turned over the 2-0 lead, falling just short in a 3-2 win. In 2000 the club were nearly on the receiving end of one of the greatest cup shocks in French history when they narrowly beat the amateurs of Calais in the French Cup Final at Stade de France.
The club had to wait until 2001 for their final championship – the last time a club apart from Lyon has taken the title. The following season the club again performed well in the Champions League, winning the first round group against PSV Eindhoven, Lazio and Galatasaray. Unfortunately they could not carry this form into the second stage where draws at home to Manchester United and Boavista were their only consolation.
In 2006/07, hopes were high for at least a UEFA Cup spot. Unfortunately the team never found any consistency, and by Christmas were close to the relegation zone. In what was planned to be an inspired move, veteran goalkeeper Fabian Barthez was signed from Marseille. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse and their run of form saw them relegated for the first time in over 44 years.
Occasionally, the National team have also played here, although the last time they visited was back in 2001 for a friendly versus Denmark. In September and October 2007 the stadium will host a number of matches in the Rugby World Cup including the match between England and Samoa. The French team have played a few games here over the years – the most famous game being a French win versus the All Blacks in November 1986. How to get there The stadium is located in the north west of the city, adjacent to the E62 main road and around 7km from the city centre. Around the stadium are some nice wooded picnic areas, and it does feel as if it is in the suburbs with little in the way of bars and cafes in the immediate area.
The easiest way to reach the stadium from the city centre is to catch the tramway number 1 to the end stop which is right outside the stadium. The journey from the city centre takes no more than 20 minutes. Bus numbers 1, 22, 71 and 76 also make the journey to the stadium.
For a better overview of football in France, go to Footiemap.com to view their excellent and comprehensive graphical overview of French football. Getting a ticket FC Nantes are one of the best supported teams in France. With average attendances of close to 30,000, getting a ticket still isn’t a problem for most matches. Tickets can be purchased from the official website at http://www.fcna.fr. You can also purchase tickets from around the region in the Leclerc stores. Some of the best seats for the neutrals are in the Credit Mutuel Oceane Bas which is one of the side tribunes where tickets are €25. Behind the goal in the Presse Ocean Erdre a seat would set you back €15.
Getting around Public Transport in Nantes consists of Tramways and buses. The tramways date back to 1826, and are used as a model for a number of other cities around the world. The tram network is today the largest of its kind in France. Whilst the majority of the attractions are within walking distance, the trams and buses provide a cheap alternative to getting around.
Nantes Atlantique airport is located around 15 minutes from the city centre. There is a regular bus that runs to the central station in 20 minutes. Tickets cost €6 each way. Alternatively you can catch bus 37 which runs to the La Neustrie tramway on line 2.
The airport’s route map is expanding every year, and currently there are a number of options to reach here from the UK. This includes Aer Arann from Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester, GB Airways from London Gatwick and Ryanair from Bournemouth, East Midlands and London Stansted.