French league club wants a new home in Switzerland

A French third-tier football club wants to play home matches in Switzerland next season if it wins promotion.

Evian-Thonon-Gaillard has targeted the 30,000-capacity Stade de Geneve – a venue for the 2008 European Championship – because its tiny home ground on the French bank of Lake Geneva does not meet Ligue 2 standards.

Club officials will meet Thursday with a league commission in Paris to “test the waters” for a cross-border move, Evian president Patrick Trotignon told the Tribune de Geneve daily on Tuesday.

Evian is second in the 20-team National league with the top three eligible for promotion to Ligue 2. This season the second league includes former Champions League semifinalist Nantes and French Cup holder Guingamp.

Evian, located 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Geneva, is operating with a budget of €4 million ($6 million) thanks to backing from Franck Riboud, chairman and chief executive of French food group Danone.

Riboud also is chairman of the Evian Masters golf tournament, which with a $3.25 million (?2.2 million) budget equal to the U.S. Women’s Open is the richest prize on the LPGA tour.

“The Stade de Geneve represents an interesting solution,” Riboud said. “I’m sure that Geneva could be a welcome place for our club.”

Evian believes it would attract crowds of 7,000 – double the average attendance for the stadium’s current tenant, Swiss second-division strugglers Servette. Geneva has not had a top-division squad in Switzerland since the once-storied Servette went bankrupt and was demoted midway through the season in 2005.

Geneva canton (state) officials have held informal talks with the French club about the two teams sharing the publicly owned venue, La Tribune reported.

Geneva sports officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The stadium has been a debt burden for Geneva taxpayers since it was built for the Euro and opened in 2003.

Evian’s proposal may bring in much needed revenue, but it comes in the same month that a right-wing party opposed to “frontaliers” – people living in France but working in Geneva – made the biggest gains in canton elections.