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Official Review by Peter Miles, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Red Star were formed in 1897 by Ernest Weber and none other than Jules Rimet. The club's anglicised name is a little bit of a mystery with two theories existing for its origin. The first is that it was chosen in recognition of the symbol sported by William “Buffalo Bill” Cody who relentlessly toured his “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” show throughout western Europe during the 1890’s.
The other theory for calling the club Red Star rather than Étoile Rouge is that in the early days the club adopted an English governess known as “Miss Jenny” as a sort of matriarchal figure, and when the name of the new club was debated she suggested calling it after the Red Star Line, a well known shipping company.
The club was hugely successful in the 1920s with four of its five Coupe de France wins coming during that decade. The club also won Ligue 2 twice before the Second World War.
Initially the nascent club played at Champ de Mars; however, this proved to be an unsuitable home and the club quickly secured the rental of a field on a flat terrace in Meudon adjacent to the River Seine. By 1904 Jules Rimet has become president of the club and three years later the club moved to Grenelle following a merger with Amical Football Club. The club really found its home, however, in 1909 when it moved to the working class "banlieue" of Saint-Ouen.
The Stade de Paris, as it was known, was inaugurated in October 1909 with a match against Old Westminsters and was to remain the home of Red Star for more than a century. It was used in the 1924 Olympics and after the Second World War the stadium became known as the Stade Bauer, after the resistance leader Dr. Jean-Claude Bauer who in 1942 was arrested and shot by the authorities. The road outside the stadium was also renamed as a mark of respect of his bravery during the Nazi occupation.
In the immediate post-war years the stadium was expanded and in 1948 an all-time record crowd of 23,000 gathered for the visit of Olympique Marseille. In 1971/72 the Stade Bauer also staged the matches of the newly formed Paris St Germain while the Parc des Princes was rebuilt.
By 1999 the stadium was a pale reflection of its former self. Lack of investment followed by a damaging storm left the stadium with a licensed capacity of only 3,000. Aside from a synthetic pitch laid in 2010 little had been done to improve the stadium. So when Red Star somewhat unexpectedly won the Championnat National (third tier) in 2014/15, elevation to Ligue 2 presented a huge problem for the club.
Promotion was a huge surprise for the club who had languished in the sixth tier as recently as 2005, and the Bauer was clearly not going to be permitted to host second tier games. The back up plan was also a shock for Red Star's small but loyal band of supporters. The club announced that for the 2015/16 season the club's home matches would be played some 48 miles north of Paris at the Stade Pierre Brisson, home of AS Beauvais Oise.
The move to Beauvais saw the club have a dramatic season under the management of Rui Almeida. Red Star challenged for promotion to the top flight all season before fading in the final straight. The Greens eventually finished fifth, ten points behind champions Nancy. Despite a great season on the field at Beauvais the experiment was not attractive to supporters; Red Star only averaged 1,915 supporters through the gates. The board decided that the club needed to be playing in Paris in order to sustain a real tilt at promotion.
The club decided to groundshare at the Stade Jean Bouin, home of Stade Francias rugby, a venue itself that had been completely rebuilt to a stunning standard during 2010-13 and now holds 20,000 people. From a neutral's perspective the fact that Red Star now play home games right next door to the all conquering behemoth of Paris St Germain is highly intriguing, not to mention amusing!
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There are well-stocked kiosks around all the concourses and with a modest crowd queuing time is acceptable. Service is swift and staff are pleasant.
The only food items on sale are ham or chicken baguettes, which are of a decent quality for €5. Confectionery and chips are the only other items available.
The kiosks sell only Heineken beer in 25cl or 50cl measures at €5 and €7, which are allowed into the stands. Sodas come in 50cl bottles and include Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite. They also stock Nestea (iced tea) as well as Perrier and Vittel water.
There is a relatively limited choice so a cold beer in the heat of a Parisian summer was most welcome.
A good atmosphere is generated by the small band of ultras gathered in the Tribune Gilardi. Clapping, drumming and the odd fire cracker generates a lot of noise from a relatively small number.
The stadium was completely rebuilt between 2010 and 2013 and increased the seating capacity from 12,000 to 20,000. Clearly it is primarily a rugby venue being the home of the top French rugby side Stade Francais for many years. The roof is an impressive continuous sweep around the whole stadium and there are four connected tribunes, the Parc-des-Princes (closest to the neighboring stadium), Tribune Gilardi, Tribune Paris and Tribune Presidential where all the VIP and media seats are housed. The exterior of the stadium is stunning, looking like a deep sea coral.
Teams are announced across the PA and displayed on the large video screens at either end of the stadium. These also show live action and adverts during the game.
With the modern rebuild the sightlines are so good there really isn't a bad seat in the house. The determining factor will be your budget as the tribunes behind either goal are cheaper than the tribunes on the sides of the pitch. The away fans are housed in a corner of the Tribune Paris. The sun hits the Tribune Gilardi during evening home games.
As the stadium is in a relatively quiet area of Paris (the 16th arrondissement) you may want to stay in a more central location where you will have a myriad of hotel choices. Transport links to Porte D'Auteuil are excellent so this would be my recommendation for seeing the real Paris rather than a sedate suburb.
For eating in the neighborhood of the stadium Le Relais d'Auteuil offers a fine selection of traditional French cuisine. For a wider selection of French, Seafood, Mediterranean and European dishes then Marius, further down Boulevard Murat, would also fit the bill.
This is Paris! The world is pretty much your oyster. The Eiffel Tower, La Louvre, Montmartre, Notre Dame, Moulin Rouge; the names are genuinely world famous and some have a price to match the reputation. Paris is a beautiful city and much can be gained from strolling around taking in its vibe and history.
There are half a dozen hotels or more in the immediate vicinity of the stadium. The Holiday Inn adjacent to Porte St Cloud metro station is highly regarded and competitively priced.
Although the club would tell you they are strictly apolitical, the hard core of Red Star support that inhabited the old Stade Bauer are strictly working class and mainly left wing leaning. There are three Red Star ultras groups called "Gang Green" and the smaller "Perry Boys" and "Spliff Brothers."
The club only averaged 1,900 in their season in exile up in Beauvais, but so far at the Stade Jean Bouin, crowds have been averaging around 4,000. So in a stadium that holds 20,000 there are plenty of empty seats.
While relatively small in number the fans remain engaged throughout the game and kick up quite a racket - "noisy neighbors" for the all conquering PSG side right next door.
The stadium is easy to drive to, located just off a junction of the Parisien ring road called the Périphérique. The exit needed is Porte D'Auteuil.
The Stade Jean Bouin is easily reachable by public transport with the best option being the Metro, line 9, alighting at Port D'Auteuil, Exelmans or Porte de St Cloud stations. There is a bus service available at Beauvais Airport which connects to Porte Maillot in central Paris.
There is ample chargeable parking in the streets around the stadium and a big public car park serves the Parc des Princes, the Jean Bouin and the neighboring Roland Garros tennis centre. Tickets are purchased at a billetiere located next to Gate D. There are bag checks at the turnstiles and a heavy presence of armed police patrolling outside the stadium.
This is an issue for anyone wanting to purchase souvenirs. Red Star have a fan shop located in the Tribune Parc des Princes only and anyone holding a ticket for another tribune can't pass into that tribune to access the shop. Only a few matches into their tenancy at the Jean Bouin, hopefully this will be one area the club will look to address.
The ticket price is good; below average for Ligue 2 football and fair for a club with support drawn from working class suburbs.
Overall food and drink are disproportionately expensive to the cost of the ticket so maybe the answer is to eat outside of the stadium before the game. The added bonus is a free glossy program.
There are no promotions or savings for advance sales.
Street parking is relatively inexpensive considering it's a major city. The free program contains all the relevant information for the match and has an eye catching design.
While the Stade Bouin will never truly be home for Red Star, its eye-catching external wrap and sweeping modern roof make it a suitable venue for someone of the stature of their founding father, Jules Rimet, a man who left his indelible mark on the game in so many ways.
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