Bernard Laporte, a towering numeral in French rugby boss, goes on trial on Wednesday on charges of corruption and influence-peddling, in a high-profile case making big waves only a year before France crowds the World Cup. Rugby World Cup fans can buy France Vs Uruguay Tickets from our website.
The 58-year-old former French rugby boss was suspected of favoritism in awarding a uniform sponsor contract for the nationwide team to close friend Mohed Altrad, the billionaire owner of Top 14 champion Montpellier.
The five officials in the dock also include Claude Atcher, who was recently suspended as managing manager of the 2023 Rugby World Cup organization. And French Rugby Federation (FFR) vice-president Serge Simon.
The trial is scheduled to accomplish on Sept 22.
“The accusations against Bernard Laporte are completely trumped-up, notably because everything he did was in the best interest of the federation,” said his lawyer, Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi.
But PNF, France’s financial crimes unit, disagrees. Its study into the dealings of Laporte, who was minister for sports in president Nicolas Sarkozy’s government from 2007 to 2009, concluded that he was guilty of illegal influence-peddling and inert dishonesty, mostly for the benefit of Altrad.
The two men’s friendship and commercial links are at the heart of the case, which goes back to February 2017 when they signed a contract under which Laporte, then head of the FFR, agreed to appear in Altrad group conferences and sold his image mock rights in return for 180,000 euros (then around $190,000).
He did, however, make several public statements backing Altrad and, in March 2017, signed a €1.8-million deal with the businessman. Making his eponymous firm the first-ever sponsor to seem on the French national team’s jerseys.
Even now, Alfred’s logo features on the team’s shirts thanks to a follow-up deal sold by Laporte’s in 2018. Which prosecutors say bears all the hallmarks of corruption. But while that amount was indeed salaried to Laporte’s, prosecutors claim that he never actually provided the services he signed up for. Rugby World Cup fans can buy France Rugby World Cup Tickets from our website.
Laporte’s is further accused of overriding French rugby’s federal disciplinary commission, which reduced a fine against an Altrad business from €70,000 to €20,000 after a call from Laporte’s.
While prosecutors see this and several more events as proof of illicit favoritism. Laporte’s himself claimed that there was no “cause-effect relationship,” and said he canceled the contract in the summer of 2017 when press bits of intelligence began to question the nature of the relationship between the two men.
The trial will also examine the links between Claude Atcher and the FFR from 2017 to 2018 when Atcher’s company, Sport SV. Won agreements for four missions, mostly linked to the French bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Prosecutors say one of those missions, worth €21,000, was never carried out. But Laporte’s still signed off on a bonus payment to Sport XV of €30,000.
Prosecutors say the deals swindled the FFR out of an estimated total of €80,000. Five years of investigation have shaken the French rugby world and upset Laporte’s reputation, but he still got himself re-elected as FFR boss at the end of 2020.
“He is confident,” his lawyer Versini-Campinchi said. “His mindset is that of a fighter.”
World Rugby and the France 2023 organizing committee have unveiled the logo and visual identity for Rugby World Cup 2023. In combination with the logo launch, the first phase of the official tournament website has been launched at www.rugbyworldcup.com/2023 in French and English.
Unveiled at a special event in Paris to mark one year since the hosting rights were awarded to France. The brand conveys the vision and desire. And the ambition of a tournament that will inspire and unite a nation, a sport, and the globe in rugby and friendship.
The France 2023 logo is a unique blend; different, influential and modern. The logo resembles an unbreakable bond, which is as infinite as the Mobius ribbon, as strong as a beating heart. Which inspires people to connect.
France star Virimi Vakatawa devastated by an early end to their career
France center Virii Vakatawa said in an emotional news conference on Tuesday. That it was hard to wake up and accept. He would never train with his colleagues again, having had to retire due to a heart defect.
The 30-year-old Fiji-born player’s problem had been raised before the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The doctor from his Top 14 club Racing 92 Sylvain Blanchard revealed this at the news conference.
Vakatawa — who sat alongside France head coach Fabien Galthie, Racing handler. Laurent Travers and club owner Jacky Lorenzetti — said it was hard to originate to terms with.
Whilst Lorenzetti said it was “almost like losing a son,” Vakatawa was more restrained in his comparisons, even if he was as emotional.
“It is tough for me to talk,” he said. “This morning, I got up at eight o’clock and I knew I would not be consecutively out onto the training ground with the others”.
“But the hardest thing was yesterday: when I told my teammates I had to stop”.
“I spent a lot of time with them both on and off the pitch. … it is not easy.”
Vakatawa had not featured in Racing’s period opener on Saturday, a 25-19 win over Casters, and Monday. The club had announced his career was over for unspecified medical reasons.
“He has to finish his career in France due to a cardiological problem,” said Blanchard. “This defect which was not connected to rugby has been constantly kept under observation but it is progressively deteriorating”.
“However, this is not the end for him, it is the beginning of something new.”
Gauthier said the 32-time-capped Vakatawa would be sorely missed. He last played in. France’s 20-15 victory in Japan in July. But due to a wound was not a member of the country’s Six Nations Grand Slam-winning squad.
“Virimi allowed a lot of children to the vision of what could be achieved,” said Gauthier, who took over the France job after the 2019 World Cup. “He was a key player in our adventure, in our past, and a wonderful man”.
“What he is experiencing now, by sharing with us he can continue to be a role model to all.”
He scored 49 tries for the club he joined at the age of 17, with his 145th and last club game. Being Racing’s 20-13 loss to La Rochelle in the European Winners Cup semifinal in May.
“He is still here, he will be present on the touchline: Instead of being an actor, he will do something else, but he will be a share of the project,” Travers said. “His life is rugby, it is Racing 92.
“We will do our bit to aid him, that he will always be part of the club that he gave so much to.”
Racing 92 has filled the massive annulled left by Vakatawa’s retirement by signing experienced center Francis Saili from Biarritz. The 31-year-old — capped twice by the All Blacks — has played in Europe since 2015, first with Irish area Munster and then English Premiership outfit Harlequins.
“Today we deliver a positive message to the world – we are rugby, we are 2023.”