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 By Ian Holyman

Lens keep fighting block on promotion

RC Lens will remain in Ligue 2 next season after their promotion was denied.

Lens president Gervais Martel has announced the club will continue to fight the decision not to allow them to play in Ligue 1 next season.

The body that oversees French football's finances, the DNCG, confirmed on appeal on Tuesday the initial decision not to validate Lens' promotion from Ligue 2 as last season's runners-up.

The issue concerns a 10 million euro shortfall in the club's planned 48 million euro budget stemming -- Lens claim -- from a mix-up with the bank transfer between Azerbaijan, the home of majority shareholder Hafiz Mammadov, and the club's account in France.

Though 18 million euros of Lens' budget for next season has been guaranteed by the Azeri national bank, the DNCG would not accept the club's argument explaining the missing cash.

The decision leaves the northerners to now appeal to France's Olympic Committee (CNOSF) in the hope they will allow them to begin the Ligue 1 season on Aug. 8.

"The catastrophe scenario is when everything is finished," Martel, whose club's fans had already gathered more than 8000 signatures on a petition against the DNCG's decision by 22:00CET on Tuesday, told L'Equipe.

"Today, it's a crisis scenario. We still have several possibilities to appeal." He added he had spoken extensively to Mammadov, who also recently acquired Sheffield Wednesday.

"I recently spent eight days in Baku to explain to him our difficulties with the DNCG and my director general, Didier Roudet, stayed there for five days last week," he said.

"He confirmed to both of us that the transfer of 10 million euros would arrive on our account. Let's take things one-by-one. The most important thing is to put together a strong dossier so that the CNOSF will hear our case."

The first team have begun preseason training under a cloud of uncertainty without coach Antoine Kombouare, who has vowed not to return to the club unless they are able to play in the top flight.

"I had him on the phone five or six times today," Martel said. "He told me that he would wait for the CNOSF's decision. He put the club into Ligue 1 and doesn't want to start again in Ligue 2, I can understand that. With his decision, he wanted to put pressure on the majority shareholder and perhaps also the authorities."

Martel added he will speak to the first-team squad at their preseason training camp in Vichy on Wednesday.

"Indeed, that's my priority," he said. "They were in a meeting when I called them. They are concerned, devastated by the situation. I am leaving at four in the morning for Vichy to go and explain things. They have earned the right to play in Ligue 1. I am committed to keeping them in Ligue 1."

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