“Designing a new economic model to shape and distinguish women’s sport”
LES NEPTUNES DE NANTES, a new partner for our Think Tank, is a 100% feminine, top-level handball and Volley-Ball club. As a subsidiary of the regional development group, Groupe REALITES, the Les Neptunes de Nantes company means to contribute to the development and recognition of professional women’s sport, as Laurent Godet, Director general of RÉALITÉS Sport and deputy President of “Les Neptunes de Nantes”, explains.
Why did you choose to invest in women’s professional sport and what is the significance of the partnerships you are forming?
LG: The main shareholder in the Neptunes de Nantes, the RÉALITÉS group, is a “société à mission” (a company with a declared social mission). Since 2021, we have been developing the “Useful now” brand, with a strong commitment to “Be useful everywhere, all the time, to developing the regions intelligently”. We realise that sport is one of the rare opportunities for creating a shared emotion, a challenge we can take up together, regardless of who we are and where we come from. In this sense, we are a company, interested in community life. Gender equality is central to the Neptunes’ DNA. We encourage it at every level, and it shapes our investment in sport.
What is the development strategy for the Neptunes de Nantes?
LG: The Neptunes included handball in 2021 (formerly Nantes Atlantiques Handball), and volleyball in 2022 (formerly Volley-Ball Nantes). The Neptunes’ structure is a unique model for women’s sport in Europe.
We want to help shape women’s sport. It does not benefit from the same organisation as men’s sport, although it contributes to the reputation of different regions. We want to get things moving, by designing a new economic model to shape and distinguish women’s sport. Our ambition is to aim for excellence and highlight women’s sport. For example, we have created a “performance bubble” around the Neptunes, with the presence of a full, skilled staff (technical, medical, etc.) in order to give the athletes the best possible conditions.
More broadly, as a “société à mission”, the club has declared its identity through several social, societal and environmental objectives. All our activities now pursue six objectives:
- To support women at every stage of their career
- To promote equal opportunities
- To develop paths of excellence for women
- To make the Neptunes team a catalyst for inclusion by amateur sport
- To engage our partners in responsible measures supported by the Neptunes de Nantes
- To organise events with minimal environmental impact, and compensate CO2 emissions engendered by the activities of the professional team.
Community education, training, disability, the place of women in sport and society, and the environment are all on our roadmap for the season 2022/2023. We want to create loyalty around this ambitious CSR scheme, by associating financial partners, the voluntary sector and regional authorities.
The GROUPE REALITES is involved in renovating the Stade Bauer at Saint-Ouen. How can a project for a sport facility like this help to shape a community?
LG: Nowadays, local authorities do not have enough money to invest in sport facilities which are often underused. These facilities need to be funded by the private sector, so that they are places to do sport, but not just that. We want to develop places which can generate permanent economic activity, which can then come back to the club. This type of project can provide a new way of living in the community. That is what we imagined for Saint-Ouen with the renovation of the Stade Bauer: a renovated, 10,000-place stadium and a new complex (buildings with spaces for collaborative work, offices, shops, health services, higher education and leisure facilities).
The same philosophy is behind our ARENA project in Nantes: 100% private and dedicated to top-level women’s sport in Europe, four years from now.
When it comes to facilities, we also support innovative concepts with our subsidiaries UP2PLAY (activity and sporting leisure complexes) and Vista Santé (sport-health centres). These are lively, friendly places, accessible to all sectors of the public. Concerning health, the idea is to move away from curing to preventing disease and to reverse the current trend towards increased inactivity. It is to everyone’s advantage to have an active lifestyle, so as to reduce health spending in the future. With Vista Santé, we offer cutting-edge facilities and care tailored to the individual by a multi-disciplinary team (physiotherapist, osteopath, chiropodist, relaxation therapist and so on). One of the challenges of this innovation is to get away from the compartmentalised French system (health facility/ wellbeing facility), and make it possible to provide a wide variety of facilities and equipment together in the same place. This is how VISTA SANTE fits into our performance bubble for technical staff.
Sport and Citizenship is leading a European project looking at the development of “active cities”. As a professional in regional development, how would you imagine this?
LG: One of our major preoccupations is the problem of the population density in urban areas. Cities need to be thought about anew, and urban sprawl needs to be limited. Professor Carlos Moreno, a researcher and urban expert, talks about the 15-minute city, where the six essential human needs (living, working, supplying, caring, learning and enjoying) are accessible in less than 15 minutes. This requires new ideas and projects, and sport and physical activity must be part of these reflections.
Your group and our Think Tank got together to strengthen the impact of sport in society. Why did you make this commitment, and what projects do you hope to develop with us?
LG: We are for collective action, and the need to put our heads together. Therefore, we need your Think Tank, your expertise and your network so that we can go further in our reflections. We also think that Sport and Citizenship can help us enhance the visibility of women‘s sport. Efforts are being made in this area, but there is still a lot to do. It’s a virtuous circle to be created. We need to break down preconceived ideas and educate from the earliest age to bring about a fairer, more equal society. We are convinced that Sport and Citizenship can help us act to this end.
Encadré: a conference on the future of women’s sport
Come and meet the Neptunes de Nantes and Sport and Citizenship at the Cité des Congrès in Nantes on 15 November 2022 for an evening of discussions and debates on women’s sport, in the presence of numerous personalities. Keep connected for more information.