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  • Chris Tuck

Stade Oceane – Le Havre AC

Photos by Chris Tuck, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Stade Océane Boulevard de Leningrad 76600 Le Havre, France

Year Opened: 2012

Capacity: 25,181


The Stadium by the Sea!

Stade Océane is a modern multi-purpose arena on the outskirts of Le Harve. It has a capacity of just over 25,000 and is home to Ligue 2 side Le Havre AC. Opened in July 2012 it replaced the aging Stade Jules Deschaseaux’ which is still standing, just across the railway line from its shimmering replacement.

By day, the new stadium resembles a petite Allianz Arena. At night, its deep ‘sea’ blue polymer and synthetic shell illuminate its exterior in stunning style…. It is a sight to behold for stadium lovers. Visiting for a 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup match, Le Havre is alive, with locals keen to showcase their port city and futuristic stadium to waves of visiting fans.

Stade Oceane is the largest stadium in the Normandy area. As the name indicates it sits close to the Seine River. Head southeast and you can sail to Paris or west to the entrance to the English Channel.

Founded in 1517, Le Havre which translates as ‘the port’ or ‘the harbour’ has always been synonymous with the sea.

Recent years have seen a renaissance of maritime activity with an enlarged port bringing renewed prosperity to the city. This is the second largest port in France. With a population of less than 200,000, the city however feels compact and accessible. After heavy bombing towards the end of WW2, the rebuilding was thoughtful and innovative, led by architect Auguste Perret. In 2005 the city centre area became a UNESCO World Heritage status.

Football in Le Havre is dominated by Le Harve Athletic Club the oldest surviving football team in the whole of France. Their most famous recent player is Paul Pogba who played in the Le Harve youth system before moving across the channel to Manchester United.

Food & Beverage 3

Within the footprint of the stadium, there are not too many food outlets to be seen. The immediate area also lacks options. Inside, the concourse kiosks provided the usual football fayre. Your best option is to get your sustenance back in the central area of the city. Numerous outlets can be found in the promenade area, the quartier St Francois, and in and around the iconic the Volcan cultural building. For a quick fix, there is a McDonalds back along the Boulevard de Leningrad by the Hotel Kyriad.

Atmosphere 4

The stadium, designed by SCAU and KSS attempts to achieve an ‘English style’ football atmosphere with steep inclines and the fan's closeness to the pitch. This multi-purpose stadium has also hosted rugby matches and music concerts.

Three stands have the same size and dimensions with an imposing main stand and curved roof which is the centre piece of this intimate feeling arena. Entrance gates are listed from A-G with away fans entering their section via Gate F. The legroom for all seats is good and as with most modern venues, there are no ‘bad’ seats in the whole place.

Neighborhood 5

Within the immediate vicinity of the stadium, there isn’t a great deal to do or see. Lodged between a dual carriageway and train lines almost all visitors will base themselves in the centre of town.

If you prefer to stay in the local neighbourhood you could book in at the (quite expensive) 1872 Stadium Hotel’ built into the west stand of the ground. You won’t get closer than that! Aside from watching a game, you could also visit the old Le Havre stadium ‘Stade Jules Deschaseaux’ just across the main road to hear the faint echoes of past glories in this now-decaying ground.

The main road that links the centre of the city to the stadium is called the Quai Colbert which becomes the Boulevard de Leningrad. This main road also leads to the railway station, bus station, and ferry port. Once you find this road you have your bearings.

Landmarks to see in the town centre itself include the amazing installation called Catane De Containers a colourful sculpture that can be seen from the ferry as you arrive. Le Volcan conceived by Oscar Niemeyer, is an eye-catching library and auditorium which must be seen. Other landmarks to see are the Saint-Joseph’s Church, the city hall, and the hanging gardens.

For refreshments, the Au Bureau is a good place to start which can be found on Rue Bernardine de Saint Pierre. Food and a good choice of beers are available at a reasonable price. Outdoor seating is also available for those balmy early or late summer afternoons. A couple of doors up from the Bureau there’s an excellent chocolate shop called Chocolaterie Auzou des Halles, then on the corner of Rue Louise Brindeau finish with ice cream or waffle to die for.

You could also visit the Docks shopping centre located just off the Quai Colbert in some refurbished old wharf buildings. As well as various outlet shops you can find food here to suit a variety of tastes.

Fans 4

The club has friendly links with the Brits from across the channel owing to its early years. Le Havre AC has English founders who visited from Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The city is also twinned with Southampton.

There are at least four separate fan groups who testify of their love and devotion to the club, Havrais Barbarians, HAC Supporters Federation, Kop Ciel et Marine, and Kop Oceane 1872. Fans are well organised and have good influence within the club nicknamed Les Ciel et Marine (sky and Navy) after the club's colours.

The average home attendance in the 2018/19 season was 6,161. Previous seasons a 1000 or so more than that. ‘Forever the First is the club anthem which was launched at a derby match v local rivals Caen early in the life of the new stadium and is sung to the tune of the English national anthem.

The fans have seen periodic success with Le Havre winning five Ligue 2 titles, the most recent in 2008. They also have one Coupe de France win back in 1959.

Access 3

Le Havre is located in Normandy, a picturesque region on the northern coast of France, west of the Parc Naturel Regional des Boucles de la Seine Normande. This busy port city is easily accessible by rail, sea, and road.

Paris is just over two hours away from the Intercites train service (from Paris Saint Lazare) to Le Havre railway station. The low-budget travelers’ friend ‘Flixbus’ offers a coach service from Paris taking a similar amount of time. From the UK, Brittany Ferries run a twice-daily service from Portsmouth. The crossing takes 5.5 hours and single passengers on foot can pay as little as £60 for a return ticket.

Le Havre and nearby Caen both have local airports, but international travellers should head for Paris and continue from there. From the city centre it is a 5k walk to the stadium. Free shuttles are available by the Havreville – Le Harve Seine metrople.

If you are arriving by car, the Stade Oceane sits adjacent to the D6015 (Boulevard de Leningrad), the main route in and out of the port. From here you can join the A29 for roads to the east, west, and down to Paris.

Parking is available at the stadium and in the local neighbourhood; check the excellent Stade Oceane website for more details. There are also two parks and rides available.

Once at the stadium like most modern venues access is relatively stress-free. Entry is by bar code tickets and inside the concourse areas are flat and easy to traverse. (Although there are steps to get up to the main stadium footprint outside the entrance).

Return on Investment 4

£60 for return ferry tickets from Portsmouth, 100 Euros for the hotel, 9 Euros for the match ticket, and 8 Euros for the official program. Add in the food and refreshments and overall this trip represents decent value for money. Accommodation could generally be found cheaper in the future, the FIFA Women’s World Cup coming to town caused inflated charges on this occasion.

Extras 3

  • Largest stadium in the Normandy region.

  • Oldest surviving football club in France.

  • The hotel was built into the side of the stadium.

Final Thoughts

The Stade Oceane, home of Le Havre AC, is hosting the 2019 Women’s World Cup matches. Take the time to visit this enjoyable city and venue.

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