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Resignation of Bernard Laporte: French rugby without a president and still in crisis



End of reign? Certainly. Game over ? This is an other story. By presenting his resignation to the steering committee of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) meeting on Friday January 27 in Marcoussis (Essonne), its president Bernard Laporte only consented to the inevitable. His position had been increasingly untenable since his conviction on December 13, 2022 to a two-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of €75,000, in particular for passive corruption, influence peddling and illegal taking of interests.

The Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, had immediately called for her resignation, very quickly followed by the National Rugby League (LNR), the governing body of professional clubs, considering that it was necessary “bringing peace to French rugby through the organization by the FFR of new elections”. By negotiating his “withdrawal” pending his appeal, Bernard Laporte refused to abdicate, counting on the consent of the clubs called upon to validate by a vote the name of his temporary replacement, the vice-president of the FFR Patrick Bush. The result of the ballot fell Thursday, January 26, a real slap in the face for an already staggering president. With more than 90% turnout, 51.06% of voters rejected the proposal.

An untenable situation

Bernard Laporte could only draw the consequences and lower his head to the exit. Except that the page is not quite turned. Because the sequel that the steering committee, sovereign in the matter, seeks to write, reflects the divisions that still agitate the “big family” of rugby. The statutes of the FFR offered two possible solutions. Or under the terms of article 21, the appointment of an interim president, then the convening next June of a general meeting of the FFR to elect a new president within the current steering committee. That is, under the terms of article 15, a resignation of the whole of the steering committee causing within six weeks the organization of new elections more widely open.

At the end of the meeting at the start of which she had invited herself on Friday morning, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra hastened to ask these elements, however affirming her preferences: ” VSwas somewhere my advisory role (…) I told them that the path which seemed to me the clearest, the clearest, the most legitimate and also the fastest, because we all want this crisis to be able to go to its end. term and be resolved quickly now, was the way for a resignation from the steering committee. » This solution was also called for by the opposition to Bernard Laporte, the Ovale ensemble collective led by the president of the Ile-de-France Regional League Florian Grill, a candidate who failed by a small amount in the last federal elections (49% compared to 51% at Bernard Laporte in 2020).

The federal opposition also resigns

But the steering committee, where 40 members sit, including 9 from the opposition, did not choose this path, favoring the appointment of an interim president and the convening in Lille at the end of June-beginning of July of an elective general assembly. evoking a “putsch”the opposition immediately decided to resign. “We cannot condone this hold-upgot carried away Florian Grill. By resigning, we put them before their responsibilities. We asked the clubs for their opinion and, today, we come to tell them that their opinion is useless. All that is not serious, all that is not responsible. It’s rude to the clubs. It’s serious. » At the start of the afternoon, the two representatives of the national rugby league (LNR) on the steering committee, its president René Bouscatel and the president of the Toulousain stadium, Didier Lacroix, resigned in turn.

French rugby therefore ends the week without a president, but still in crisis. Seven months before the World Cup, the picture may be less tarnished, but still very blurry. The XV of France is preparing to begin (Sunday February 5 against Italy) in this climate a Tournament of the Six Nations decisive for its confidence before the global deadline. Coach Fabien Galthié, long very close to Bernard Laporte, has applied himself for months to staying away from current debates, keeping the XV of France in his bubble, in his unalterable project.

This is also the only anchor of the scattered oval. Not touch the XV of France, swear all the protagonists of the current soap opera. That the Blues continue to win, shared hope. For the rest, it’s still open scrum. Which is not quite the best representation of the famous “French flair”.

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Rugby: Bernard Laporte released from police custody for money laundering of aggravated tax evasion



The retired president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) Bernard Laporte was placed in police custody on Tuesday January 24 as part of an investigation for laundering aggravated tax evasion, said the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF), confirming information from The Team. He came out of it in the evening without pursuit at this stage.

“He left without any police summons, nor presentation to an examining magistrate”told AFP one of his lawyers, Me Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi. “It is a matter in which he finds himself implicated having been associated with rugby friends a long time ago. He was neither accused of having defrauded nor of having received any sum”, he added. The national financial prosecutor’s office (PNF) confirmed that he had emerged free.

“He was summoned for a hearing by tax police, he went there with a tax lawyer”, said one of his lawyers, Me Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi. The investigations, launched in August 2020, were entrusted to the Financial Judicial Investigation Service (SEJF), said this source.

“It is perfectly scandalous that the prosecution chose the date of Patrick Buisson’s election to set that of the hearing and that the disclosure of this hearing was made the same day”he added, lambasting “a relentlessness of the PNF”.

A second case

Since Monday, and until Thursday, the approximately 1,900 amateur clubs in the country are called upon to decide on the candidacy of Patrick Buisson, vice-president in charge of amateur rugby, to take the head of the Federation during the withdrawal of Bernard Laporte, under pressure from the Ministry of Sports and the Ethics Committee of the FFR.

In rugby, awareness of player concussions

According to a source familiar with the matter, this investigation is separate from the corruption case in which Bernard Laporte was convicted at first instance on December 13. He was then given a two-year suspended prison sentence, alongside businessman Mohed Altrad, who was sentenced to an 18-month suspended prison sentence. Bernard Laporte appealed against this judgment.

The custody is also separate from the PNF’s investigation into the Rugby World Cup organizing committee. France 2023 for favouritism, influence peddling and corruption.

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Le Graët, Laporte… How to change the governance of sports federations?



► “The rather conservative world of sport is difficult to move”

William Gaspariniprofessor of sociology and sports sciences at the University of Strasbourg, specialist in sports governance

“The difficulties experienced by Presidents Noël Le Graët and Bernard Laporte in their football and rugby federations obviously raise the question of the evolution of governance within these institutions. But it is a cyclic questioning. In 2021, the renewal of presidents after the pandemic had already been the subject of a debate on the age of leaders and feminization… which had not prevented the broad re-election of Noël Le Graët, at 79 years old. The average age of sports leaders is still 64, although some federations have experienced a slight rejuvenation. In the end, there are only two women presidents out of 36 Olympic federations.

The question of the opacity of decision-making also comes up often, as does the absence of a limit to the number of terms served by the same president. These managerial techniques from another age appear to be out of step with the needs of more modern governance. The methods of internal appointment are also to be reviewed, because the elections often reveal a formal democracy, theoretical more than real. The cooptation system generally lacks transparency. In a general assembly of a departmental or regional committee, elected by the clubs, we often always find the same people, those who have time and are retired, out of step with the mass of young graduates. But without them, often volunteers, it must also be emphasized that the associative movement would not work.

Can the state reform this governance? We see it with the Le Graët case, he can actually demand accountability, since it is the State which delegates public service to the federations. But the latter are also very attentive to their autonomy and the State cannot interfere too much in their affairs. Above all, he cannot afford a general crisis with the sports movement within two years of the Olympic Games. In the case of football, the ministry is therefore calling on the authorities to move, in this case the executive committee of the federation, but I do not believe that the government is ready to go further.

He knows, however, that France is also watched with the organization of the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and the Games in Paris in 2024, and therefore he cannot let the image of sport continue to deteriorate. But the ridge line is hard to find. The rather conservative sports world is difficult to move. Ideally, the reform should come from the base, from athletes and clubs. But sport is not the sector of commitment and activism. So I don’t really believe it. »

► “The State cannot intervene in the internal management of a federation”

Bernard FoucherDoctor of Laws and President of the Federal Ethics Committee for French Rugby

“You have to keep in mind that the federations are associations under the 1901 law. The French Football Federation has its statutes, its members, like any association. The difficulty is that sport is a public service, which therefore comes under state management. The latter delegates its power to the federations, but retains a right of inspection, a power of supervision. The whole ambiguity is knowing how to combine the autonomy of associations and the powers that the state has. I believe that the difficulty lies in this duality.

The State officially recognizes associations and federations through approvals and delegations. It can impose a common framework so that the statutes of the federations conform to a standard statute. And, to obtain the delegation and the approval, it is necessary that the statutes are in conformity with the standard statute which the State imposes. The only thing that the State can do is therefore withdraw the approval and consider that the federation it wishes to sanction is no longer recognized as the depository of the right conferred on it by the State. But doing that is the atomic bomb assured. Furthermore, the State cannot intervene in the internal management of a federation. Only members of the federation can.

The law of March 2, 2022, aimed at democratizing sport in France, sought to impose more democratic governance on federations through these standard statutes. In particular with a limitation of mandates, the creation of ethics committees or the prevention of conflicts of interest. The federations are brought, if they want to preserve their approval, to be always in conformity with their statute.

Furthermore, each federation can adopt its own provisions without waiting for the law. There are systems that preceded what the law of 2022 imposed in terms of prevention. In the event of a problem, the ethics committee could intervene, but it all depends on how it works, which is specific to each federation. Regarding the rugby ethics committee, we do not have the possibility of making binding decisions. What we can do is give opinions, recommendations, injunctions, like asking someone to step back. You can also go to the Disciplinary Committee.

This is a real subject and it is an object of reflection with the State and the Minister of Sports: how to improve the functioning and the role of the ethics committees? The law made these mandatory in 2022, but how are they made? Are they really independent, with a minimum of power? It varies a lot from one federation to another. »

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Bernard Laporte will propose his “withdrawal” from his functions as president of the FFR



The president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) Bernard Laporte, sentenced Tuesday, December 13 to two years in prison suspended for corruption, will propose Thursday to the Minister of Sports“his withdrawal” of his duties pending his appeal trial, announced Monday, December 19 evening the FFR.

Bernard Laporte, who “remain president” of the FFR, will also propose to Amélie Oudéa-Castéra her temporary replacement by a president-delegate, said the Federation in a press release, sent following the holding of a Federal Bureau in the morning.

According to the Federation, Bernard Laporte “has informed the Federal Bureau of its desire to follow the injunction of the FFR Ethics Committee to the letter”who had asked him on Friday to “withdraw temporarily, as a precaution, until a final criminal decision”.

Convicted of passive bribery and influence peddling

Therefore, the statement adds, “the Federal Office has decided unanimously by its members and in accordance with the regulations and statutes of our institution, to follow and apply to the letter the injunction of the Ethics Committee”.

In office since the end of 2016, Bernard Laporte, re-elected in 2020 for a four-year term, was found guilty on December 13 of five of the six offenses for which he was prosecuted, including those of passive corruption and influence peddling.

Having appealed the decision of the Paris Criminal Court, his suspended prison sentence, as well as the ban on exercising the activity of president of the FFR for a period of two years, are not immediately enforceable.

Amélie Oudéa-Castéra announced on Sunday that she would receive Bernard Laporte on Thursday, after having estimated, as soon as the judgment was made public, that the conviction of the former coach of the Blues made ” obstacle “ to his mission at the head of the FFR, nine months from the Rugby World Cup in France, from September 8 to October 28, 2023.

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Bernard Laporte sentenced to two years in prison suspended, French rugby in turmoil



This is the epilogue of a legal soap opera that has shaken French rugby for several months. Tuesday, December 13, the president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of €75,000 by the Paris Criminal Court for having tied “a pact of corruption” with businessman Mohed Altrad, manager of Montpellier Hérault Rugby (MHR), concerning in particular the allocation of sponsorship for the Blues jersey.

The sentence of the boss of French rugby, found guilty of passive corruption, influence peddling, illegal taking of interests and concealment of misuse of corporate assets, was accompanied by a two-year ban on exercising any function related with rugby. Bernard Laporte’s decision to appeal being suspensive, he retains his seat at the FFR, less than ten months from the World Cup in France.

Is it just a temporary reprieve for the former coach of the XV of France? Tuesday evening, the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra estimated that his conviction “obstructed” in the pursuit of his mission at the top of the FFR, claiming in fact his replacement at the end of“a new democratic era to allow French rugby to start again on a sufficiently healthy and solid foundation as quickly as possible”.

For his part, Mohed Altrad was found guilty of active bribery, influence peddling, abuse of corporate assets, and received an eighteen-month suspended prison sentence and a €50,000 fine.

The Laporte-Altrad relationship in the sights of the judges

The origin of the case dates back to a series of arbitrations rendered in 2017-2018. Bernard Laporte allegedly used his status to interfere in favor of his friend Mohed Altrad after receiving €180,000 from him in March 2017, under an image contract that was never executed. “Each of his interventions was guided by a bias towards Mohed Altrad”, according to the court, favoring in particular the awarding of the very first sponsorship contract for the jersey in the history of the XV of France to the construction group of Mohed Altrad. At the time, Bernard Laporte brushed off criticism, promising the partnership would pay off “at least 35 million euros” over five years, for the benefit of amateur rugby.

The suspicions of favoritism went further. The president of the FFR would also have intervened to alleviate disciplinary sanctions aimed at the Montpellier club. Indicted for having maintained the postponement of matches for the benefit of the said club, the vice-president of the FFR, Serge Simon, was released. To these legal setbacks is added the recent layoff of the project manager of the organization of the 2023 World Cup, Claude Atcher, for managerial practices judged “alarming”.

The 2023 World Cup in sight

These legal disputes tarnish French rugby and contrast with the state of grace, on the ground, of the France team. Former international fly-half under the Laporte era, Yann Delaigue is however confident in the ability of French rugby to recover from the condemnation of the leader of the federation: “Rugby is, in its very essence, a sport based on the idea that no one is irreplaceable. But this verdict actually turns the oval world upside down a lot, it does not help to give a good image of our sport.. »

Max Guazzini, emblematic president of the Stade Français Paris between 1992 and 2011, sees “a case mounted in a pinch”and prefers to retain the results obtained by the one who was the successful coach of the Parisian club before taking the reins of the XV of France (2000-2007). “Since 2016, Bernard Laporte has fought for the World Cup to take place in our country when it was not won in advance. He chose a coach in the person of Fabien Galthié, who allowed our Blues to return to victory. It is largely thanks to him that tricolor rugby is doing so well. he says to The cross.

As for the supposed interferences of Bernard Laporte, Max Guazzini relativizes: “You really have to know nothing about the practices that are current in our sport to think that a president never intervenes with a disciplinary committee when there is an unjust sanction. »

The future governance of the FFR in question

However, it is the mission of the Federal Committee of Ethics and Professional Conduct of French Rugby, chaired by Bernard Foucher, to make the governance of the FFR more transparent. This entity created in 2016, concomitantly with the arrival of Bernard Laporte, benefited from “the cooperation of the federal authorities”according to this honorary member of the Council of State.

However, this body had no say in the awarding of the sponsorship contract for the Blues jersey to the Altrad group. “The contract had already been concluded, says Bernard Foucher. We simply issued recommendations on the execution of the contract to prevent potential conflicts of interest with Montpellier Hérault Rugby. » In January 2018, seized by the presidents of professional clubs, this same committee recommended the establishment of “safeguards to ensure that there is no possibility of favoritism “.

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Tour de France: Christophe Laporte, first Frenchman to win a stage



The 19th stage of the Tour de France ends (finally) with a French victory. Christophe Laporte (Jumbo Visma) is the first rider to cross the finish line on Friday July 22 in Cahors, during a flat stage serving as a transition between the Pyrenean triptych and the time trial scheduled for Saturday July 23 in Rocamadour.

The Belgian Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceunick), and the Italian Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) then came to complete the podium.

While the Tour de France ends on Sunday July 24, the general classification has not changed: Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo Visma) retains the yellow jersey (and the polka dot jersey), more than three minutes ahead of Tadej Pogacar and eight minutes on Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadier).

The 188 kilometers separating Castelnau-Magnoac and Cahors were not very lively and the rest of the general classification was not shaken either: the Frenchman David Gaudu retained fourth place, ahead of Nairo Quintana, whom he had passed the day before. .

An interruption was however marked 157 kilometers from the finish due to a demonstration on the road, as during the Megève stage. The gap between peloton and the breakaway was calculated and the riders left in the same positions.

A Frenchman in place of another

The breakaway did not survive for long and only the American Quinn Simmons (first in the intermediate sprint) tried to hold on. The youngest of the competition finally abdicated, 35 kilometers from the finish. His solitary getaway nevertheless earned him the bib of the most combative runner of the day.

The white jersey Tadej Pogacar attempted a small attack a few kilometers further, taking advantage of the aspiration of Alexis Gougeard. The hope of victory quickly vanished on this ground not conducive to widening gaps and the Slovenian was quickly overtaken by the great Wout van Aert, assured of keeping the green jersey.

Alexis Gougeard stayed ahead of the race alongside Briton Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), Belgian Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo). But the teams wishing to see their sprinter go for the victory worked together at the front of the peloton to close the gap with the leading trio.

The Lotto-Soudal, QuickStep-AlphaVinyl and TotalEnergies teams thus took turns before catching up with the three riders, destroying Alexis Gougeard’s chances of victory. He will be fortunately replaced by another Frenchman, who escaped victoriously from the peloton 1.5 kilometers from the finish.

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Rugby: Bernard Laporte placed in custody in the Altrad case



Ten days away from running for the head of the French rugby federation (FFR) Bernard Laporte was taken into custody Tuesday, September 22 in Paris, in the investigation into his links with the president of the Montpellier club, Mohed Altrad. His lawyer denounces a “Interference” in the campaign for the presidency of the FFR while Bernard Laporte castigates a “Destabilization” and one “Calendar unworthy of a democracy” in a letter to French clubs, distributed during his custody.

Preliminary investigation opened in 2017

Heard by the Economic Crime Repression Brigade (BRDE), Bernard Laporte is the subject of a preliminary investigation opened in 2017 by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, then recipient of a report from the inspectors general of the sports ministry. He would have exerted pressure on the federation’s appeal committee to reduce in June 2017 the sanctions pronounced against Montpellier Hérault Rugby (MHR), the club owned by the Altrad group, also sponsor of the France team.

August 13, 2017 Sunday Newspaper had also revealed the existence of a contract for 150,000 € of image services between BL Communication, a company managed by Laporte, and Altrad Investment Authority, a contract which the boss of French rugby had finally given up.

→ TO RE (READ). Rugby, what do we blame Bernard Laporte for?

“Interference with the judicial process”

Lawyer for Bernard Laporte, Me Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi deplored that the hearing takes place ten days before the elections for the presidency of the rugby federation, where the former Secretary of State for Sports (2007-2009) is seeking a second term, facing its main opponent Florian Grill.

“Searches were carried out (at the headquarters of the FFR) in February 2018, one could imagine that he would be heard in September 2018, this would have left investigators seven months to analyze the documents. However, he was summoned two years later, in the middle of the campaign, while the prosecutor knew the electoral calendar of the federation since August 2019 ”, said the advice of Bernard Laporte.

“It is the blatant interference of a judicial process in an electoral process”, he added, claiming that “The prosecutor refused, without reason, to change the date”. A previous hearing, set earlier in the year, had been postponed “Because of the health restrictions of the Covid-19, otherwise he would have gone there”, added Me Versini-Campinchi. As part of the investigation, the three members of the federal appeal commission have already been heard in 2019.

The boss of the group, Mohed Altrad, owner of the Montpellier club and sponsor of the Blues, was also taken into custody by the financial police, just like the boss of the 2023 World Cup Claude Atcher, and two senior officials of the Federation, Serge Simon and Nicolas Hourquet.

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