Lausanne-Sport: A cautionary tale for Man Utd fans of the perils of INEOS ownership

  • INEOS have completed a minority takeover of Man Utd
  • The group also own Ligue 1's OGC Nice after beginning their football journey with Lausanne-Sport
  • Sir Jim Ratcliffe has openly admitted to major mistakes with the Swiss team
INEOS' ownership of Lausanne-Sport has not gone to plan
INEOS' ownership of Lausanne-Sport has not gone to plan / RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/GettyImages

"We made some mistakes in Lausanne," Sir Jim Ratcliffe told fans of INEOS' newest club OGC Nice when the deal to purchase the French side was completed in August 2019.

Before turning his attention to Nice, Ratcliffe and INEOS had spent 18 months attempting to play Football Manager with Swiss side Lausanne-Sport, who were fifth in the country's top division when INEOS took over in November 2017.

Lausanne president David Thompson spoke of a desire to cement their place in Europe's top competitions when INEOS first arrived, and that ambition seemed feasible. After all, the top four teams of Switzerland's ten-club top flight get a spot in Europe.

By the end of the year, Lausanne would be rock bottom and relegated to the second division.

As Ratcliffe and INEOS settle into their new homes at Old Trafford, the story of Lausanne-Sport is one Manchester United fans would be wise to familiarise themselves with.

The story of Sir Jim Ratcliffe's ownership of Lausanne-Sport

Emilie Moeschler, Bob Ratcliffe, Philippe Leuba
INEOS arrived at Lausanne-Sport in 2017 / RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/GettyImages

It's important to understand the full story when looking back at INEOS' takeover of Lausanne in November 2017.

The club were on the brink of financial ruin and it was widely expected that Lausanne would soon cease to exist without a massive injection of funds, and so Ratcliffe and INEOS took on the role of heroes by keeping the club alive. For that, fans will be eternally grateful.

INEOS arrived at Lausanne and wasted little time splashing the cash, investing €3m (a significant sum in the circumstances) on the playing squad in the hope of throwing enough talent at the team to create an upturn in form.

The result would be the exact opposite, with Lausanne winning just two of their 17 games that followed INEOS' first transfer window in charge.

"The limits of INEOS are in the knowledge of football," Swiss journalist Andre Boschetti told France Bleu. "They probably love the sport but they don't know much about it and they haven't surrounded themselves with the right people, which explains the wreck that followed."

While all that was going on, however, INEOS were making good on their promises to invest away from the field. Plans on a new stadium were being drawn up before their arrival but the group would ultimately improve and complete the €70.8m construction of Stade de la Tuiliere in 2020.

Before then, Lausanne would spend two years battling their way out of the second tier. It took two seasons of hectic transfers - described by some agents as "helicopter transfers" after 40 deals in 18 months - but they would be relegated once again in 2021/22, sitting bottom of the table without a clue of their identity or strategy.

Lausanne spent only one year in the second division this time around and currently find themselves lurking towards the bottom of the Swiss Super League.

What have INEOS got right at Lausanne-Sport?

Stade de la Tuiliere
INEOS oversaw the construction of the Stade de la Tuiliere / RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/GettyImages

While fan unrest towards the direction of the club has been common, few have ever questioned INEOS' willingness to use money to try and fix things.

The stadium project was incredibly well-received, as was an improvement in marketing and branding. Lausanne are a sustainable business which, given they almost collapsed entirely six years ago, is a massive positive.

Players have been signed and ambition has been shown in both transfers and the hiring of managers and directors, and it was clear in the first few years that INEOS had a genuine desire to make something of Lausanne.

What did INEOS get wrong at Lausanne-Sport?

Hicham Mahou
Lausanne have struggled on the pitch / RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/GettyImages

The first stumbling block was transfers. A scattergun approach to recruitment left the team struggling to gel - a mistake Nice captain Dante admitted followed INEOS to France as well.

The results obviously didn't go to plan either. Uncertainty in the dressing room, dugout and boardroom ultimately led to an uncomfortable atmosphere which saw things spiral out of control for Lausanne, who are yet to really settle after years of chaos.

However, away from the pitch, things weren't always rosy either. INEOS made the bold decision to alter the Lausanne badge just two months after their arrival, making a subtle tweak which incorporated the INEOS logo into the club crest.

Unsurprisingly, fans were livid and were immediately concerned that their club had become part of a glorified vanity project. INEOS subsequently backtracked on their change.

After attempting to rebuild their relationship with supporters, INEOS' approach is alleged to have changed when Nice entered the equation.

Popular president David Thompson was replaced by Jim Ratcliffe's brother Bob in 2019 and fans soon began to feel as though Lausanne had become the feeder club to Nice - the signing of seven loanees from the French side for their first season back in the top flight didn't exactly help dismiss that perception.

"INEOS turned everything upside down by giving the reins of Lausanne-Sport to Nice. Hence a loss of identity that has been very expensive," former Lausanne vice-president Stefan Nellen, who left a few years into the INEOS ownership, told 24 heures.

Ultimately, the perception of INEOS' ownership of Lausanne is one of confusion. While the business and finances have been spectacular, the results on the pitch have left an ocean to be desired and, at the end of the day, it's on-field success that actually matters.

Fans remain grateful that their club continues to exist but questions have been asked about INEOS' commitment to the project - something the Man Utd takeover may impact further.