“Strengthening Rugby in French Sport”

MAINTENANCE – A year after being elected boss of the 30 top 14 and Pro D2 clubs, the president of the LNR draws up a post-pandemic balance sheet for Le Figaro. And shows new development paths.

LE FIGARO. – How is French professional rugby doing after two years marked by the pandemic?

Rene Bouscatel. – His financial health was precarious. Some clubs, especially the bigger ones, have been weakened. There are still some tense situations, but the DNACG has not identified any catastrophic situations thanks to government aid. The revival seems to have got off to a good start. Crowds are returning to the stadiums, with more than 160,000 fans in the top 14 and Pro D2 even breaking a record attendance on the day dedicated to the derbies. TV viewership is also increasing. We are on the right path. As demonstrated by our signing of five new partners since March 2021.

Can this period have an impact on the amount of the salary cap?

no It will be revised a little further down, but as expected (10.7 million euros in the top 14 next season). The decisions to steer the salary cap downwards were made early last season after the first confinement and that course has been maintained. It has proven itself for the fairness and attractiveness of our championships. There are now eight to ten clubs that can claim the title of French champions.

Do you sometimes doubt his respect?

Some clubs might be tempted. But we conduct independent and thorough checks, thorough investigations. We have already corrected some errors. When we set rules, there may be attempts to circumvent them, but they are very limited.

Personally, I’m not pro-player commodification

Some presidents are pushing for transfer reform. Can they become a new source of funding?

We have been discussing the subject of transfer compensation with the thirty club presidents for some time. There are two schools. Those who advocate for free transfers in free amounts so that it becomes a method of club funding, like in football. Personally, I am not for this commodification of players. On the other hand, there are those who want to ban them altogether. Which is unrealistic and probably illegal. We are therefore in the process of developing an intermediate position: a regulation on the amount of transfer compensation. The portion corresponding to the remaining salaries due would not go into the salary cap, contrary to what would be exceeded and which is speculation.

Another topic under discussion: the increase in the number of duplicates contested in the top 14 these days without the caps requested by the French team.

There are both negative and positive effects of duplicates. The negative mainly affects the two or three clubs that have many international matches. You’re going through difficult times. They often end up dropping out because the final phase, played in the form of a cup, allows the forces to be rebalanced. By the way, I’m grateful for the sacrifices made by the clubs for the benefit of the French team. On the plus side, it allows young players to hatch. Every president must try to forget the special interest of his club, which is incidental, in favor of the collective interest. We must not forget that this greater availability of international players has one goal that unites everyone: that the French team be able to win the World Cup.

“Changing the format of the top 14? For me there is no sacred number”

In order to reduce these duplicates, can we imagine changing the format of the top 14 of the 2023-2024 season? For example by reducing to 12 teams or by passing them on to two pools of 8 teams.

A set number of weekends are available in each season. They have to fit into the league, European cup and internationals. We also have a well advanced project of hosting a Club World Cup every four years. All of this requires a reflection on the formats of the competitions. For me there is no sacred number. But the establishment of the single hen also contributes to the sporting and economic success of our championship. The top 14 format has proven itself. It is therefore necessary to be very careful before considering changing something that is working well. When the sporting performance of the clubs is there, all of French rugby is a winner. Check out the grand slam the blues achieved. The clubs are the present and the future of the XV. from France.

What are the NRL’s main projects for the coming years?

With the World Cup coming up, it’s time to be ambitious for French rugby to conquer a new audience. This is why I created the Economic Development and Innovation Commission to respond to changes in society and our audience. We will also confirm our ambitions for Rugby 7 with the development of In extenso Supersevens (the championship at 7 p.m., editor’s note). Then I want rugby to be, beyond sports training, an educational school for coexistence that carries high our commitment to social issues such as the environment, diversity and solidarity. Rugby needs to help move the lines and be inspirational. I want to expand his influence to strengthen his place in French sport and promote his values ​​in society.

For René Bouscatel, “we can moderately and, above all, not artificially promote a geographical development of professional rugby”. François Bouchon / Le Figaro

How to address the difficulties Pro D2’s burgeoning clubs are encountering in maintaining their presence in the top 14?

The Pro D2 is an increasingly attractive and challenging competition. The gap is narrowing, although there is still progress to be made. Maybe by helping the up-and-coming clubs a little more. The 2and Division cannot tie 1time but solidarity must be exercised. Therefore, in the redistribution of league revenue, 60% goes to the top 14 clubs and 40% to Pro D2.

Some advocate for direct access to the first of the regular season and no longer a passage through random dams…

It’s a discussion that will stimulate. Although I think this last phase is one of the attractions of the Pro D2…

“Rugby should not be confused with football. Funding will never be the same”

Can the LNR promote a better geographical distribution of professional clubs, help them establish themselves in the north, in Brittany, in the Grand Est?

These tools are very theoretical. First, they should be oversized. Then do not transplant artificially. It has to come from the raw, it has to be rooted… Rugby is a cultural sport for me. In the Southwest there is a steeple versus steeple tradition. We can moderate the geographical development and, above all, not artificially, because that would not work. Rugby should not be confused with football. Funds will never be the same.

Regarding the top 14, is it possible that the final will no longer be played systematically at the Stade de France, but alternately with a stadium in the province?

We have a contractual commitment to play the final there until 2025. However, the question arises for 2024, the year of the Olympic Games. The Stade de France is not available, so the final will be postponed. After 2025? Why not…

We will try to give the European Cups new impetus, to establish a new way of functioning

What is the LNR’s relationship with World Rugby, the international governing body?

As soon as I was elected I wanted a new dynamic, I worked to create a more fluid relationship with the FFR, World Rugby and France 2023 in the interest of all French rugby. The French association initially calmed down. Like any big family, there can be arguments from time to time, but the tensions on both sides needed to be settled. It’s about being positive and constructive so that everyone benefits. If French Rugby has a good World Cup, everyone will benefit, including the professional clubs… With World Rugby, meanwhile there is a regular and very positive exchange. This is what guides my governance: to be more open, participatory and transparent. When I was a lawyer, I used to say, ‘If you don’t want a deal, make it over the phone; if you want it to happen you meet. When we talk to each other, we find that there are many bad interpretations, misunderstandings. So everything has become much more fluid. After that, we must not dream, but remain vigilant. But without being paranoid.

And with the EPCR, which manages the European Cups. We remember your very critical outing to him earlier in the year about the handling of Covid cases…

I was very angry. And I still am. There were governance and organizational issues at EPCR. In a year I’ve never been invited to the headquarters in Switzerland, it’s incredible, isn’t it? But I think that will change. We will try to give the European Cups new impetus, to establish a new way of functioning.

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