Debt-ridden Auxerre face exile

Auxerre were playing Real Madrid and AC Milan in the Champions League just three years ago, but now face being banished to the backwaters of the French game after falling into financial difficulty.

The Burgundy club's president Gerard Bourgoin, 73, went before French football's financial watchdog, the DNCG, on Thursday to plead the case of Auxerre, who finished third in Ligue 1 in 2009/10.

However, with resources lacking to meet next season's budget, the 1995/96 Ligue 1 champions, currently eighth in Ligue 2, are staring at the prospect of being relegated by the body, which enforces France's strict rules on club's financial management.

"At a time when Auxerre can save its skin in sporting terms, it risks losing it administratively," Bourgoin, whose club was estimated to be €16.33 million in debt last June, was reported as saying by France 3 Burgundy. "Auxerre is in an unprecedented financial situation. We were considered as being a rich club. We were very comfortable, now we're not."

The club has made significant cuts to playing staff this season with a number of departures, but Bourgoin, who called on local authorities to contribute, remains on the hunt for investors to pump €5-10 million into keeping the one-time boys' club afloat.

"We're talking with outside investors, but it's a bad time and the negotiations are long," Bourgoin told L'Equipe. "They're reticent about investing. But we're still talking, and I'm calm about the situation."

Another former Ligue 1 side, Le Mans, who are €7 million in the red, were given until the end of the season to balance their books.