by Pierre-Étienne Minonzio
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Roger Federer's coach took sides in a dispute opposing a tennis and a golf club in the region of Var. With former rugby player Jean-Pierre Rives supporting him.
Stefan Edberg with his former sparring partner Arnaud Deleval in a picture taken in recent years
The town of Grimaud extends between the green hills and the shores of the Mediterranean. In this enchanting context of Var, near Saint-Tropez, an amazing conflict between a golf and a tennis club is taking place, worthy of an episode of the M6 tv show "One does not choose their neighbors." But a very particular episode, involving sports celebrities...
Background: on March 9th, Arnaud Deleval, a founder of SALB, the company that manages the Grimaud tennis club, was surprised by arriving at his club, to see a crane cutting down half a dozen trees next to a court. "I called a bailiff, but by the time he had arrived, all the trees had been cut," he says. "It's amazing, they made it without telling me anything, as if they were at home."
"They" is the direction of the golf course nearby, which, according to Deleval, was not allowed to order this slaughter. The event, indeed, occurred on a small part of the golf club belonging to SALB, owner of 2 of the 36 hectares that make up the course (you follow?).
Serge Brouant, president of the golf club, however, says he was allowed: "We have a legal deed saying we have an easement on this plot, forcing us to take care of it. I removed these trees mainly for security reasons."
This local business has changed in nature when, in the article by "Var Matin" that revealed the story on March 12th, was dragged the name of Stefan Edberg. Because Deleval (52), who won the tennis championship of France in his age category last year, knows the former world number 1 well: he was his sparring partner in the '90s.
Having become friends, the French and Swede founded SALB together in 1999, which allowed them to buy the Grimaud club (and thus a part of the land in the adjacent golf course.)
In 2000, Edberg has played there an exhibition match against Cédric Pioline, to promote the club, and until 2011, he went there every year in July, when he was vacationing with his family in the area.
He has not returned since his appointment as Roger Federer's coach in December 2013, a position that leaves him little time for himself. But Edberg, who retains 34% of the shares of SALB, keeps a close eye on this soap opera in Grimaud.
The proof? When we solicited him by mail, he replied immediately. "I have know Arnaud for over twenty years and I have confidence in his knowledge of the local specificities and in his conduct of the tennis club. He will handle the situation and keep me informed. What happened is very sad and not fair."
Even more surprising, the Swede can count on the support of another big name in sports: Jean-Pierre Rives, that, important clarification, is... Deleval's brother-in-law. "Arnaud owns the terrain, the least would have been to make a request before taking down the trees like that," indicates the former captain of the French national rugby team.
"I have a duty of confidentiality, as I am part of Arnaud's family, but I find this story so stupid... It's extravagant it is happening in a country that is considered to be the land of freedom."
Faced with this dream team pro-SALB, Brouant counter-attacks. "Deleval wants to destabilize the region by fielding big personalities by his side, so people think: 'Oh, this poor sportman is run over by a golf company!' But the truth is that he is attracted by promotion and money."
In an attempt to persuade us, he has given us a copy of an email dating back to 2010, sent by Arnaud Deleval to his architect. This message seems to prove that the head of the tennis club, back then, was considering the idea of renovating the golf clubhouse located on his plot, hoping to resell it with a comfortable plus-value.
Which would confirm what we already strongly suspected: beyond considerations related to ecology, fair behaviour or freedom, this litigation is also a big business. Four procedures are underway, both before administrative and high court tribunals to determine the rights of each party.
Meanwhile, Deleval dreams to organize a new exhibition with Edberg in Grimaud to inaugurate a future paddle tennis court. We doubt that Serge Brouant will be invited...
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