Stade Vélodrome

The Stade Vélodrome (French pronunciation: ) is a football stadium in Marseille, France. It is home to the Olympique de Marseille football club of Ligue 1, and was a venue in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and the 2007 Rugby World Cup. It is the largest club-football ground in France, with a capacity of 60,031 spectators. The stadium is also used regularly by the French rugby union team.

The record attendance for a club game at the Stade Vélodrome was of 58,897 (for a UEFA Cup semifinal against Newcastle United in 2004). The stadium was also featured as a Football World Cup venue when the 1938 finals were held in France. The first-ever match to be played was between Marseille and Torino in 1937. As of 2011 there are plans to increase its capacity to 67,000 and build a roof to cover all four grandstands, contingent on the sale of the Olympique de Marseille football club.

The French rugby union team began an impressive run of victories at the stadium in the early 2000s. They defeated the All Blacks 42–33 in November 2000, and in 2001 defeated Australia by one point. They beat the Springboks in 2002, followed by a win over England in 2003. However, their run of luck was broken in 2004 when they lost 14–24 to Argentina. The venue was used by France in November 2009 when the French played the New Zealand All Blacks. France is not the only rugby team to have used the Vélodrome in recent years. On April 18, 2009, Toulon took their home fixture in the Top 14 against Toulouse to the Vélodrome, drawing 57,039 spectators to see a 14–6 Toulon win which played a key role in the Toulonnais' successful fight against relegation in the 2008–09 season. Toulon has taken two home matches to the Vélodrome in each of the succeeding two seasons. The Vélodrome was also the venue for both semi-finals in the 2010–11 Top 14 season.


In 1935, the architectural firm Pollack Ploquin was chosen to build a stadium in Marseille. Henry Ploquin (who designed the Stade Municipal Gingham for the Olympics three years earlier) designed the stadium. For economic reasons, only the Stade Vélodrome was built. On 28 April 1935, the foundation stone was laid for the Velodrome by Marseille Mayor Ribot, on a site between downtown and the suburban areas of St. Giniez and Sainte-Marguerite on military grounds belonging to the city. The Stade Vélodrome opened on 13 June 1937, when a friendly match was played between Olympique Marseille and Italian of Torino FC (which ended 2-1 to Olympique Marseille). On 29 August 1937 (the second day of the French national football championship) a match took place between OM and Cannes. This was the first official match at the stadium.

The Stade Vélodrome is aptly named, since cycling competitions were held there. Over the years, bleachers gradually replaced the bike path which circled the stadium. These races became less common, but the velodrome remained famous for fans of OM (Olympique Marseille) (since the sloped track which extended the bleachers served as a slide to invade the pitch at the end of matches).

OM was long hostile to the Stade Vélodrome, calling it the "stage of the City Council". For fans of the Olympians between the wars, the real home of OM was Stadium Huveaune, owned by OM and partly financed by fans in the early 1920s. After World War II, however, OM no longer owned the Stadium Huveaune. Seeking support from the city, Chairman Marcel Leclerc had OM play at Huveaune from 1945–1960. The City Council then relented, and OM moved to the Vélodrome. During the 1970s, OM shared the Stade with the Marseille XIII Rugby League.

1998 World Cup and beyond

The Stade Vélodrome was completely renovated for the 1998 World Cup; its capacity increased from 42,000 to 60,031 seats (or 32 miles of seats). The Vélodrome hosted the final draw, which took place on 4 December 1997 (the first time the final draw was held in an outdoor venue) and seven matches, including France's first match against South Africa, the quarterfinal between Argentina and the Netherlands and the semifinal between Brazil and the Netherlands. As of 2011, the record attendance for a football game (58,897 spectators) was the Newcastle United UEFA Cup semifinal on May 6, 2004 (2–0). During the 2007 Rugby World Cup the Vélodrome hosted six games, including two quarterfinals: Australia versus England (which holds the overall attendance record with 59,120 spectators) and South Africa versus Fiji. On July 16, 2009, during preparations for a Madonna concert, one of four winches used to hoist the structure failed; the 60-ton roof fell (leaving two dead, eight wounded and crushing a crane).

Widely criticized and unloved by the Marseillais for its architecture (no roof, exposure to strong mistral winds and poor acoustics), the Stade Vélodrome has since 2003 been the subject of several projects to modernize and enlarge it. In July 2009, following an extraordinary council of the City of Marseille concerning the City Hall renovation project, a motion was passed launching a public-private partnership (PPP). On June 21, 2010, following France's winning bid for UEFA Euro 2016, Marseille announced that the stadium would receive another renovation (a roof and an increase in capacity from 60,031 to 67,000), making it an UEFA Elite Stadium. Works began in the spring of 2011 and are expected to end in summer 2014.


In 2002, Division 1 was renamed Ligue 1. The average attendance for each season from 2000–01 to 2008–09 was:

1938 FIFA World Cup matches
1998 FIFA World Cup matches

The four stands in the stadium are named after athletes (runner Jean Bouin and 1920s cyclist Gustave Ganay), a historical figure of the 1720 plague epidemic (Chevalier Roze) and a popular bear (Patrice De Peretti, nicknamed "Depe", who died suddenly in July 2000).

Situation and accessibility

The stadium is located four kilometres away from the Vieux-Port of Marseille, within the neighbourhoods of Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Giniez in the southern part of Marseille. It is bound to the south by the Huveaune river and to the north by the Parc Chanot and the local headquarters of regional public TV station France 3 Méditerranée. To its west runs the Boulevard Michelet and to the east, one can find the Marseille Palais des Sports as well as the Delort stadium, which will be converted into a rugby arena during the Vélodrome renovation projects.

The Vélodrome is serviced by the bust and metro networks of the Régie des transports de Marseille. Besides several bus services operating in the area, two stations of the Marseille metro lign 2 can be found close to the stadium. Supporters wishing to reach the Ganay or North stands must alight at the Sainte-Marguerite Dromel station whereas the Rond-Point du Prado station caters for the South stand and the Jean Bouin stand. This lign, which also serves the Marseille Saint-Charles train station, benefits from additional trains on matchdays.

Marseille Provence airport is found thirty kilometres away from the Vélodrome.


The Stade Vélodrome will increase its seating capacity by 2014 (when France hosts UEFA Euro 2016), and will continue to host games for Olympique de Marseille. Currently it holds 60,031 spectators; following its renovation, it will be able to hold 67,000. The expected cost of the project is €267 million. The expansion and modernization of equipment was part of the French bid to organize Euro 2016. Even if France did not submit the winning bid "the project will of course be pursued", said Marseille mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin. Gaudin's bid also provided for the creation of a new district.


Marseille will increase the stadium's capacity and install a roof, as required by UEFA standards. The project also includes multiple reception areas and media space, better access for the disabled and better seating.


As seen in the picture above, the esplanade Ganay will be preserved and refurbished. The RTM parking lot will be replaced with office towers and housing. RTM users will benefit from a larger underground car park. Trees and wind turbines will contribute to a new-neighborhood HQE (high environmental quality).


The project estimate is €150 million. Plans call for the private sector to cover two-thirds of the investment; the remainder will be shared by the region, the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, MPM and the city of Marseille. The French government will also contribute to upgrade the area's infrastructure. The city hopes to contribute at least €20 million. After several studies, the mayor selected the contract of partnership arrangements included in a PPP (public-private partnership).

Time frame

The project is expected to be completed in summer 2014. During construction, OM will continue to play at the Vélodrome.

Olympique de Marseille

"Olympique de Marseille will be closely associated with the project", said Jean-Claude Gaudin. The club will remain a tenant of the stadium. Elected officials want ticket prices to be controlled.

No naming rights

"I am not the mayor who will sell the Vélodrome or the one who will change its name", said Gaudin. For the time being, the selling of naming rights has been rejected.

  • OM-Lille OSC 2004

  • OM-LOSC 2004 before the match, viewed from the Virage Nord

  • Photo of the Virage Sud – OM-Lille OSC 2004

  • OM-OL 2007 – quarterfinal of the Coupe de France


3 photos

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