There will certainly be a president in the Imperial City. In Rome, on Sunday, Alexandre Martinez will take his place in the official stand of the Olympic Stadium to attend, in the costume of President of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), the first match of the XV of France, against Italy, in the Tournament of six nations 2023. Chosen from within the steering committee, now orphaned by representatives of the opposition and the National Rugby League (LNR), who resigned in order to demand general elections, this close friend of Bernard Laporte and until there treasurer of the FFR was appointed, Friday, February 3, to manage current affairs until the end of June, when a new president will be elected by the clubs – but only within the steering committee.
Discreet, the former president of the Lavaur club (Tarn) bears little resemblance to his predecessor, forced to resign following the refusal of amateur clubs to validate, between January 23 and 26, the delegate president he had personally chosen (Patrick Buisson) to assume his prerogatives, the time that he is fixed on his appeal trial.
Sentenced on December 13, 2022 to a two-year suspended prison sentence, a fine of 75,000 euros and a two-year ban on exercising any function related to rugby – in particular for “passive corruption”, “influence peddling” and “Illegal taking of interests” – Bernard Laporte appealed. And initially did not intend to leave his post as president of the FFR. But, under pressure from the sports minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, and the federation’s ethics committee, the leader first agreed to a “withdrawal” causing him to lose all of his duties except the title. Before proposing, in accordance with the statutes of the FFR, the name of Patrick Buisson – vice-president in charge of amateur rugby – as deputy president to replace him.
Relatives of Bernard Laporte isolated
Called to speak, the amateur clubs disavowed, 51.06%, during a referendum, this proposal. And highlighted the crisis that hexagonal rugby is going through, while the results of the XV of France are looking good. Following this election, Bernard Laporte submitted his resignation on Friday January 27; but despite calls from the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, who estimated in Olympic noon that the members of the steering committee “would be honored to put their mandate at stake”, the areopagus of French rugby has chosen to remain in place. And the relatives of Bernard Laporte, re-elected in 2020, are now isolated, the elected representatives of the opposition as well as those of the National Rugby League (LNR) having resigned from the steering committee to demand general elections.
Denounced by the opposition, embodied by the president of the Ile-de-France League, Florian Grill, as “a way of not respecting the result of the referendum and a denial of democracy”the decision of the followers of Bernard Laporte to remain at the helm of the Federation respects the federal statutes, which allow them to propose an interim president. “The statutes of the FFR, we did not invent themrecalled at the end of January Alain Doucet, boss of the Occitanie League, in Olympic noon. In the steering committee, we respect the procedure: we are not terrorists and we take care of a myriad of clubs wanting to end their season peacefully and needing us by their side. It is not the vox populi that manages our lives. »
A presentation rejected by the opposition. “If Bernard Laporte had resigned the day after his conviction, there would have been no question. But they opted for a referendum, and the result does not suit themtance Florian Grill. In rugby, the rules are not changed during the match. »
A “prudent treasurer”
Patrick Buisson having been challenged by the clubs and unable to present the candidacy of Serge Simon, close to Bernard Laporte – the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office having appealed his release in the context of the “Laporte-Altrad” affair -, the federal office therefore chose Alexandre Martinez to represent them.
Elected interim president Friday morning by an unopposed federal committee (23 votes in favor and two abstentions, according to our information), the Tarn elected official, a former Orange executive, will have to leave his position as treasurer of the FFR. Friday, the same day as his election, the Ministry of Sports seized the General Directorate for Competition and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) about the “compliance with competition rules” in certain contracts awarded by the federation, according to information from The Team.
The one who presented himself in 2020 as a “prudent treasurer” following the accusations of the opposition of the mismanagement of the accounts of the FFR will have a lot to do to try to fill the great gap which divides French rugby. “I want to draw inspiration from my past as a noh 10, the notion of openness will be essential. I will manage day-to-day business with a clear objective: to reduce the division and fracture that currently affects French rugby.the new president said in a statement on Friday.
Far from putting an end to the crisis of governance that the FFR is going through, the interim presidency of Alexandre Martinez should last until the next general assembly, in Lille at the end of June. The pro-Laporte majority having announced its determination to go through with its mandate, in 2024, it could even re-enlist on this occasion. Unless by then, six members of the steering committee resign, which would provoke a general election.