Atletico Madrid complete deal to buy stake in Lens
La Liga club Atletico Madrid have formalised the purchase of 34.6 percent of the shares of Ligue 2 club Lens.
It was announced in May that Atletico were to take a large share in the French club, which has been beset with financial issues in recent years, with a Luxembourg based company called Solferino headed by the Champions League finalists' long-time advisor Ignacio Aguillo having the remaining 65 percent in a deal overseen by the French bankruptcy courts.
Lens were relegated in 2011, and although the sang et or won promotion in 2014 they were not allowed back into the top flight due to budget irregularities. The Stade Felix Bollaert-Delelis has been refurbished for this summer's Euro 2016 finals -- and hosted England's 2-1 Group B win over Wales on June 16.
An Extraordinary General Meeting of Atletico's shareholders voted to approve the deal on Monday, with a subsequent club statement detailing some of the reasons behind the purchase.
"The board has approved with 3,562,533 votes in favour and 7,565 votes against, which represents a 99.78 percent of the votes cast in favour of the agreement, the acquisition of a participation of 34.6 percent of the French club Racing Club of Lens," the statement said. "RC Lens is currently playing in France's Ligue 2, although it was champion of Ligue 1 in the 1997/98 season and of the League Cup in the 93/94 and 98/99. It has developed most of its history in the first division [Ligue 1] of France. Its Delelis-Bollaert stadium was renovated in October of 2015 in order to host several matches of the 2016 European Championship.
"Its current capacity is 38,223 with spacious and modern facilities for corporate events. The La Gaillette training centre, opened in 2001, also houses the corporate offices of the club and has 12 playing fields [including a covered one] on an area of 22 hectares. The residence boasts modern infrastructures that can accommodate up to 120 players. The academy of RC Lens has been chosen this season as the best of France, confirming the position among the first three of the country during the last 15 years.
"International figures have trained in the ranks of RC Lens. In addition, the network of talent scouts, coaches, and trainers from RC Lens will help extend the talent recruiting ability of our club. The operation approved by the board is framed within the internationalisation strategy of the club, continuing along the line initiated with Atletico de Kolkata in India."
This week's EGM also saw Atletico officially merge their womens' football team, which won the Spanish Copa de la Reina last season, within the basic structure of the club.
"The board has unanimously approved the integration of all sections of women's football of Elemental Sport Club Atletico de Madrid Women's football in the structure of the Club Atletico de Madrid, S.A.D," the statement said. "This integration seeks to promote the professionalisation of women's football, as well as providing a financial stability that allows the women's football section of the club to have a progressive and sustainable development."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan