Bordeaux, Lyon, Montpellier… the “rugby of deep territories” dried up by metropolisation

The times have changed. Canal + has chosen as the flagship poster of the Top 14, Sunday April 23, the duel between the Union Bordeaux-Bègles (UBB) and the University Olympic Lyon (LOU). Twelve years ago, this meeting was just an anonymous second division mid-table clash. Promoted to the elite of French rugby over the past decade, Girondins and Rhodaniens are now leading players. Neither Lyon, a century-old club, nor UBB, born in 2006 from the merger between Stade Bordelais and CA Bègles, are neophytes in the elite, but the advent of these two clubs, located respectively in the 2e and the 5e urban area of ​​the country, tells the evolution of the landscape of French professional rugby.

UBB and LOU now compete with the two Ile-de-France clubs – Stade Français and Racing 92 – Toulouse, Clermont-Ferrand, Toulon or Montpellier, all located in the 22 metropolises of France. At the same time, Montauban, Bourgoin-Jallieu, Albi, Auch or Dax, experienced in elite contests in the 2000s but located in less dynamic urban areas (less than 150,000 inhabitants), are no longer there. invited, even struggling to stay anchored in Pro D2 (second division).

Faced with this “metropolisation”, this season, only Castres (urban area of ​​67,000 souls) and Brive-la-Gaillarde (100,000 inhabitants) still represent in the Top 14 this “rugby of deep territories”, according to the expression of Castres president Pierre-Yves Revol. “The high level has requirements that are no longer within the reach of small townslaunches the economist Pierre Chaix, author of the book The New Face of Professional French Rugby (The Harmattan, 2015). If a sponsor does not land from the Moon, it is no longer possible. »

The issue of sponsors

Castres Olympique, finalist in the last Top 14 but struggling this season, is counting on the loyal and lucrative support of Pierre Fabre Laboratories to remain in the elite. Red lantern of the French championship, CA Brive has the penultimate budget. “Over the last ten years, the ranking is linked, more or less two places, to the budget”laments its president, Simon Gilham.

The Corrèze club however recorded, in September, the arrival as the first shareholder of Ian Osborne, English tech magnate. “We just signed Ross Moriarty [troisième ligne international gallois]. We did not have access to this type of player before, it is a very concrete example of the impact of Ian Osborne “continues the president, who nevertheless refuses to attach the label of “patron” to him.

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