Bernard Laporte begins a second term at the head of the federation against the backdrop of a judicial investigation

Bernard Laporte at the headquarters of the French Rugby Federation, in Marcoussis (Essonne), on October 3.

French sport now has its answer. Yes, you can win an election while being the subject of a preliminary investigation by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office for influence peddling and illegal taking of interest.

For almost three years, investigators have suspected Bernard Laporte, the president of the French rugby federation (FFR), of having pushed to ease sanctions against Montpellier, the club of billionaire Mohed Altrad. Useful clarification: the Altrad group had concluded an image contract with a personal company of Bernard Laporte, until revelations from the Sunday newspaper force the latter to renounce it.

Saturday October 3, almost four years after his takeover of the FFR, and ten days after a night in police custody as part of the investigation still ongoing by the prosecution, Bernard Laporte has just been re-elected as president of the instance, for a four-year term.

Its list obtained 51.47% of the votes at the end of a ballot proposed in electronic form, due to the Covid-19, and in which 95.21% of amateur clubs participated (representing 96.77% of the votes).

The success is closer than expected against the list of Florian Grill (48, 53%), responsible for the League of Ile-de-France and already a member of the previous steering committee of the FFR. A man of whom Bernard Laporte spoke in these terms in an interview with Good public, one year ago : “Nobody knows him except his mother, so who cares? ”

Lightning campaign

Bernard Laporte succeeded in his maneuver. Where Florian Grill began his campaign in June 2019 and chained 230 meetings with clubs, the president of the FFR will have waited as late as possible to present his official candidacy for a second term: official announcement in July 2020, start campaign a month later, 28 meetings in barely 40 days.

To justify such a late departure, Bernard Laporte invoked the Covid-19 crisis. “I had to stay at the helm as long as possible considering the period of crisis we are going through. I couldn’t see myself doing otherwise ”, he also repeated on Saturday. During this period, he spoke a lot and promised aid of 35 million euros to the amateur world … but as president of the federation.

Until the end, Bernard Laporte refused to comply with Florian Grill’s request, which demanded to postpone the election for two months, the confinement due to Covid-19 having prevented his travels.

Just like the ethics and professional conduct committee of the FFR, the conciliator of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee had nevertheless given a favorable opinion on Grill’s request. In August, he estimated “Wise to secure this election by postponing it” to avoid an appeal in court – even if Mr. Grill did not ultimately go to court.

Conversely, and this time in vain, Bernard Laporte will have tried to the end to postpone his own hearing in the Parisian premises of the brigade for the repression of economic delinquency (BRDE). This will have finally forced him to spend a night in police custody, from September 22 to 23.

In a September 17 letter revealed by The world, to encourage the first vice-prosecutor to postpone the questioning, Mr. Laporte’s lawyer even went so far as to consider that his client exercises the right to silence.

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Campaign without debate

Bernard Laporte, moreover, opposed a systematic refusal to discuss with Florian Grill, despite the request of the World. During meetings with club presidents, without adversary, Bernard Laporte indicated that he had already implemented “90%” of the 44 commitments promised four years ago.

Sports daily The team however, identified fifteen broken promises. Including the creation of a financial supervisory board, the establishment of federal contracts for international men at XV, or the 10% reduction in the operating costs of the FFR. This last measure would have made sense, however, while the federation has just recorded, in September, its third consecutive operating deficit.

During his first term, on the other hand, the president of the FFR put an end to the “big stadium” project in Essonne, just as he limited the number of mandates to the presidency of the FFR to two.

For his second and therefore final mandate, Bernard Laporte will have the honor of keeping control of French rugby during the 2023 edition of the World Cup, which the players of the XV of France will play at home. The organization of this competition was obtained in November 2017 – despite an evaluation report favorable to South Africa – after the vote of the leaders of World Rugby. International Federation of which Bernard Laporte also became, in May 2020, the vice-president.

In addition to the suspicion of favoritism towards Mohed Altrad, the national financial prosecutor is also interested in the conditions for obtaining this competition, according to our information, confirming those of the Chained duck in August.

Read also Rugby: MM. Laporte and Grill must have their campaign funding validated


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