Olympique Lyonnais

The Aulas empire, seven titles, new stadium and all

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Semi-finalists in the Champions League in 2019-20, Olympique Lyonnais have lost domestic dominance to Paris Saint-Germain but gained a fabulous stadium, the Groupama Stadium, aka Parc Olympique Lyonnais. The arena, unveiled in 2016, forms part of a football-based empire known as Parc OL, aka OL Land, in Décines-Charpieu, 12km east of Lyon.

On the pitch, OL also made the Europa League semi-finals in 2017, before selling the prolific Alexandre Lacazette to Arsenal. The Lyon-born striker is typical of the quality produced by the club’s youth academy.

Parc Olympique Lyonnais/Peterjon Cresswell

Seven-time successive league winners from 2002 to 2008, Lyon rose from lower league to European contenders thanks to owner/chairman Jean-Michel Aulas. This local businessman picked up the likes of Michael Essien and Florent Malouda cheaply from rival French clubs, got a couple of great seasons out of them, then sold them on for a serious profit. Other academy products include Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa.

With roots back to the early 1900s, today’s Olympique Lyonnais were founded from an amalgam of local teams in 1950. A year later, OL won the second division. 

The club spent most of the next 30 years in the top flight, winning the cup three times. Memorable European games included a 4-4 away goals win over Spurs in 1967 and a semi-final appearance in 1964. Key players included Jean Djorkaeff, Nestor Combin and, the hero of the 1960s, Fleury Di Nallo. His successor in the 1970s was the equally bullish Bernard Lacombe.

Allée des Lumières/Peterjon Cresswell

By the 1980s, OL were on the wane. It took the arrival in 1987 of Aulas to launch ‘OL-Europe’, a plan to push the club back into the limelight – and back into Europe. OL, ‘Les Gones’ to their fans, the ‘Bad Gones’, became a popular phenomenon along the lines of Olympique Marseille a decade earlier.

Promoted in 1989 with Jean Tigana as coach, OL finished league runners-up in 1995. Goals by Florian Maurice and big-name signing Sonny Anderson saw progress in the UEFA Cup and Champions League.

The arrival of Jacques Santini as coach in 2000 brought unexpected Champions League victories over Olympiacos and Bayern Munich. The next season, in the title clash with Lens, Pierre Laigle broke away to score the decisive goal and send the Gerland into ecstasy. OL had won their first championship.

Allée des Lumières/Peterjon Cresswell

After Santini’s departure, Lyon continued to dominate at home but show inconsistency in Europe. A 2-1 win over Inter in Milan was followed by defeat in freezing Trondheim. 

Over the next four years, Lyon topped their groups that featured Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid (twice), with key performances from stalwart winger Sidney Govou and free-kick specialist Juninho – only to fall in the early knock-out stages. Most memorable was victory over Real Madrid, mainly thanks to goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, in 2010. Bayern then proved too much in the semi-final.

Awash with Qatari money, PSG now have the firm grip on Ligue 1 that Lyon once held. All the same, OL didn’t finish below the top five for 20 years, a quite remarkable record.

2015-16, though, could have been a different story. Falling out of the top ten around Christmas, Lyon brought in ex-OL midfielder Bruno Génésio as coach. Transformation isn’t the word. First came the unveiling of the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, the long-awaited new stadium soon to host six matches at Euro 2016.

Allée des Lumières/Peterjon Cresswell

Then, from February, OL went on a 14-game streak of 11 wins, two draws and one narrow defeat, a run that culminated with the 6-1 destruction of Monaco, Lyon’s nearest rivals for a group stage spot in the Champions League 2016-17, behind Paris Saint-Germain. Although OL barely laid a glove on PSG all season, their 2-1 win over the nouveaux riches from Paris was voted ‘Match of the Season’ by readers of Lyon daily Le Progrès.

In a tight group, Lyon narrowly lost out on a knock-out spot in the Champions League but went on a scoring spree in the Europa League. Prolific victories swept OL to the semi-final. Two goals in as many minutes by an irrepressible Lacazette almost pegged back the aggregate score after a heavy defeat to Ajax – but it wasn’t enough.

With Lacazette sold to Arsenal, Génésio still had the coaching chops to coax match-winning performances from Memphis Depay, whose hat-trick against Nice assured Champions League qualification for 2018-19. Depay them combined with captain Nabil Fekir, another Lyon graduate, to embarrass English champions Manchester City at the Etihad. The 2-1 win was no more than Lyon deserved – although three subsequent draws exposed defensive frailty.

Parc Olympique Lyonnais/Peterjon Cresswell

The departure of Génésio in May 2019 paved the way for former Arsenal defender Sylvinho and his compatriot, all-time Lyon hero Juninho, to forge ahead with a new coaching partnership. It proved disastrous, hardly helped by the sale of three key players, including Fekir. 

Barely two months into the campaign, the wheels came off and it required the steady hand of Rudi Garcia to push Lyon back up the table and through the group stage of the Champions League.

A pulsating 1-0 win over Juventus at the Groupama Stadium in February set things up perfectly for a best-ever showing in Europe’s premier competition – until the season was forced to close. 

The controversial decision to freeze Ligue 1 in March, OL looking forward to six home games and four away, meant no subsequent European berth by league placing the following season. A League Cup final with PSG was also put on hold, leaving the club looking at a various means of appeal.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

At the height of Lyon’s hegemony, shortly after the last of seven consecutive titles in 2008, club president Jean-Michel Aulas revealed his plans for OL Land. Comprising a 59,000-capacity stadium, hotels and a leisure centre, it was sited at Décines-Charpieu, out towards the airport.

Costing some €410 million, the project was announced nearly two years before France won hosting rights for Euro 2016. Under several working titles – Stade des Lumières, Grand Stade de Lyon – the arena was eventually given the name Parc Olympique Lyonnais. Later, this became the sponsored Groupama Stadium.

Work began in 2012, the first stone was laid in 2013 and OL opened the stadium against Troyes in January 2016. Crowds have often surpassed 55,000 – only Marseille can claim better. The stadium has also hosted major international rugby.

End to end, though, this is a soccer arena, with home fans behind each goal and the AirFibr hybrid grass pitch up close to the spectators. Sound bounces off the photovoltaic roof to create a cauldron of noise for the match-long call-and-response chants of hard-core Bad Gones supporters in the Virage Nord – OL have an arena they can be proud of.

A corner of the Virage Sud is allocated to visiting supporters, for major games sections 428-431 of the upper tier, accessed through gates Q and R. Smaller groups are placed in the lower tier, sections 124-125, same gates.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

For 2.5hrs before kick-off and 1hr after the final whistle, shuttle trams serve the stadium. Look out for the red N (‘Navette Tramway’) sign near Part-Dieu station (exit on the Rhône Express side). Journey time 25min.

Regular transport is provided by tramway 3 from Part-Dieu (Rhône Express side; every 10-30mins) to Décines Grand Large (journey time 20mins).

Signs for the Parc lead you down rue Francisco Ferrer to a roundabout, where you turn left. Allow 10mins from the tramway stop.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

With a stadium capacity of 59,000 and gates surpassing 55,000, availability is at a premium. Online, the club and agencies FnacCarrefour and Auchan distribute, along with outlets of Digitick, such as Boul’dingue secondhand record shop in town at 8 rue du Palais de Justice.

Tickets are also sold at the two club shops, in town at 104-106 rue Edouard Herriot (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm) near Bellecour métro, and behind the Tribune Nord (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 10am-6pm and match days).

Prices start around €30 in the upper tiers and €50 in the lower.

For English-language enquiries, use the online contact form.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The club’s main store (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 10am-6pm and match days) is at the Parc Olympique, at the main entrance approached along the allée des Lumières walk of fame directly opposite Le Couëron restaurant.

The club also has a two-floor store downtown (104-106 rue Edouard Herriot, Mon-Sat 10am-7pm), a minute from Bellecour métro station.

Stadium tours

Explore the ground inside and out

There are two kinds of stadium tour – Mini (1hr 45min, €15/discounts €8) by the pitch and Classic (2hr 15mins, €23/€11), including the dressing rooms and dug-out. Both incorporate the club museum, which can be visited individually (€10/€5 5-16s; Wed, Fri, Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 10am-6pm/school holidays Tue-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 10am-6pm).

English-language stadium tours (€19) are available Wed-Fri, 11.30am.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Just behind the Tribune Nord on avenue Jean-Jaurès, friendly, affordable Le Couëron has been run by Véronique and Jean-Jacques Mirzoian for 35 years. On match days, a makeshift outdoor bar creates pre-game atmosphere. Even closer to the stadium here, the KOPSTER Hotel adapts its menu for match days. Reservations are preferred.

On level 2 of the Tribune Nord, the Brasserie des Lumières operates by VIP package (only on match days, and standard reservations on non-match lunchtimes (+33 4 72 10 00 00, Mon-Sat noon-2pm). Mounted TV screens may distract diners from Jérôme Bernigaud’s gastronomic inventions – you’re in the culinary capital of France.

Payment at kiosks within the ground is by cashless rechargeable MYOL card (, €2 from OL Stores or vendors. Outside, cash is fine.