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Suspected of favoritism, the president of the French Rugby Federation, auditioned by the financial prosecutor, came out free on Wednesday after police custody. Bernard Laporte ensures that the “file is empty” and denounces maneuvers intended to make him lose the presidency of the FFR, at the head of which he is seeking a new four-year term.
As a player or coach, Bernard Laporte has always been a leader, a man with an explosive character and a strong verb. The players he led got to know his outbursts or his outbursts of anger, notably immortalized in a scene filmed in February 2002 at half-time in a match against Italy. And at 56, Bernard Laporte, the president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), has lost none of his verve, as evidenced by the press release dated September 22 in which he denounces “a real coup attempt” against him, while he is targeted by an investigation for suspicion of favoritism.
This document was distributed by email and on social networks, even though Bernard Laporte was in police custody in Paris. He had, in fact, chosen to prepare a letter intended for rugby clubs in which he explained why he was in the premises of the Brigade for the repression of economic crime, as part of a preliminary information opened by the National Prosecutor’s Office. financial (PNF). With him, four other people were interviewed and placed in police custody: Serge Simon, vice-president of the FFR, Claude Atcher, director general of the Public Interest Group France 2023, Nicolas Hourquet, responsible for the FFR for international relations and Mohed Altrad, president of the Montpellier rugby club. The 5 men regained their freedom on Wednesday, September 23, after around thirty hours in police custody.
In his letter, Bernard Laporte explains that this hearing constitutes “a logical and normal step, resulting from a procedure which was initiated almost three years ago”. In 2017, the president of the FFR was accused of intervening in favor of the Montpellier club, to ease the sanctions against the club pronounced after the deployment of banners hostile to the National Rugby League by Montpellier supporters. Bernard Laporte admits having then discussed this file with the president of the FFR’s appeal committee, but denies having pleaded in favor of the club chaired by Mohed Altrad. The latter had become, three months earlier, the first jersey sponsor of the XV of France with his eponymous company, before supporting the French candidacy, finally victorious, for the organization of the 2023 World Cup.
From coach costume to secretary of state
The PNF must now decide on the rest of the procedure. The lawyers of the five in custody confirmed that their clients had been questioned on other cases, such as the support given by the Altrad group to the French candidacy or the relations between this businessman, named best global entrepreneur 2015 by Ernst & Young, and Bernard Laporte. And they probably tried to find out more about four conferences that the sports leader was to give within the Altrad group in 2017 for the sum of 150,000 euros. Le Journal du Dimanche then revealed the existence of this communication contract. A few days later, the FFR published a press release in which it explained that Bernard Laporte renounced it in order “to put an end to all forms of suspicion against the national authorities of rugby and its president”.
These suspicions, Bernard Laporte has largely fueled them in recent years. His name has been found in several court files that punctuate his many economic activities and justice continues to instruct some. Charges that Bernard Laporte has always refuted, attributing the proceedings against him to the jealousy of his opponents. And they did not dissuade Nicolas Sarkozy from appointing the former coach of the Blues to the post of Secretary of State in charge of Sports between 2007 and 2009.
Brilliant coach-manager at the Stade Français and RC Toulon, Bernard Laporte ran for the presidency of the FFR in 2016, once again winning a big victory. He indeed collected nearly 85% of the votes against his opponent Pierre Camou and then embarked on his new career as president of the federation. Hyperactive, he continued to carry out his investment projects and certain media activities on the sidelines, becoming a columnist in a talk show hosted by Cyril Hanouna. It also was elected World Rugby vice-president last year, World Federation of this discipline.
“The folder is empty”
There is therefore no shortage of construction sites for this man whose mission is to organize the Rugby World Cup. To achieve this, he intends to win a new mandate in the election scheduled for October 3. In front of him is a candidate, Florian Grill, a 53-year-old entrepreneur who denounces in particular his catastrophic financial record and the lack of investment to try to stop the decline in the number of redundants. The two men have not spared themselves for several weeks by interposed interviews and the criticisms are made more and more harsh with the approach of the poll.
Bernard Laporte did not seem to worry much about the final result, however, and was leading an active campaign with amateur clubs in which he enjoys strong support. Until his hearing before the PNF. The president of the FFR does not understand why justice auditioned him ten days before the election. In a new post posted Thursday, September 24 on Facebook, he denounces a media storm and wonders who is benefiting. He also returns to what he describes as “interviews” with the investigators and assures that “the file is empty”. He anticipates that “the mountain will give birth to a mouse” and he calls on his supporters not to be fooled by this deception and to vote for him on October 3. And he also spoke briefly to reporters on Thursday, September 24, with tears in his eyes.
“I said no to 5 million euros. And they’re going to give me lessons? I don’t want any more lessons.”
Very touched after the end of his police custody, Bernard Laporte could not restrain his emotion and attacked Florian Grill: “He must leave our sport!” pic.twitter.com/dgel6xlQmJ
– RMC Sport (@RMCsport) September 24, 2020
“Far from discouraging me, it strengthens me in the will to act with you and for you”, asserts Bernard Laporte. on Facebook. As he did in the locker room with his teammates or his players, he will try to unite his troops against the detractors. He also announced the immediate resumption of its meetings in different regions of the country. It only remains for him to hope that other bad news does not come to spoil the last days of the campaign. If this is the case, he will always be able to show himself as combative. “I must be masochistic but taking blows, it turns me on”, he confided, smiling to Figaro at the end of 2018.