Biarritz Olympique amateur sector president David Couzinet has decided to end the women’s team. A small revenge, according to those affected.
“We got a big hit behind the head. We don’t know yet what we’re going to do next year. We need to find funding, infrastructure… We’ll see how we can get back on our feet…On the phone, Florian Mercader tries to keep calm. He doesn’t get carried away. No panic. However, he would have the right to give in to one or the other. This ovalball enthusiast hasn’t counted those hours to promote women’s rugby for nearly a decade. In 2013 he started building a women’s section in his beach volleyball club. Before founding a club a year later (FAR, Féminines Athlétiques Rugby), she joined the Biarritz Olympique Federation in July 2018. Always with the same goal: to enable girls to practice their favorite sport.
When he was summoned last Wednesday by David Couzinet, the president of the BO’s amateur federation, the blow was hard. “He announced to me that the women’s department would be abolished. Before that, the next day in the press to indicate that he finally kept the youngest, so released twelve.The reason for this murder? “He initially claimed he no longer had the budget. Before you accuse us of being too close to the pro level (the BOPB, chaired by Jean-Baptiste Aldigé, with whom David Couzinet, leader of the amateur party, has been in conflict since his election in December 2021, ed. Red.). He told us that we were not loyal to the federation and therefore it was no longer possible. The girls voted against his project and then called the General Assembly to replace him. It’s obviously a punishment. That’s why he kicks us out‘ rants Florian Mercadier. The defendant weakly defended himself in the local press:They are closer to the professional section. Somewhere they took sides…»
As a result of this reckoning “70 girls plus fifteen employees are thrown out. That’s 85 fewer licenses at the next GA. So it’s sure to happen“, the now ex-responsible for the women’s rugby pole of the BO, whose first team plays in the Federal 2 (4th women’s division), grimaces. The captain of the ”BOtés” is more raised. When Élodie Rousseau answers questions from Le Figaro, we know from the tone of her voice that the anger is there. “We pay cash to agree with the professional part. But the president of the professional division has always supported us, pushed aside, unlike that of the federation, which has always forgotten us. When the new leadership arrived, they publicly made big announcements and promises. They said they wanted to gather. They just shared. And they don’t accept that we get along well with the BOPB.»
“We are the only section of the BO that has no employees. We are all volunteers. It’s certainly our passion, but we’re entitled to a modicum of respect. »
And the young woman regrets that “ruthlessnessof the team towards its partners and them. “We never got any recognition. I’m not surprised anymore, it was that bad. We’re reaching the regional semi-finals, we’re qualifying for the French championship and we’ve never had a message of support or congratulations. In January, six of us got an appointment, we exposed them to our many problems. Nothing has changed. Proof that Couzinet doesn’t care about us, at the end he asked us if we were playing rugby at 10am. He hadn’t listened to us. He had never been interested in us since our first season started at 15 six months ago…»
Florian Mercader gives some concrete examples of this disinterest. “When he was elected, David Couzinet assured everyone in the media that he would do anything for the girls. Specifically, we got a weight room that we didn’t have before. By the way… We didn’t have access to the living room or the video room. We’re the only section that doesn’t have keys. He promised us a physiotherapist and a doctor for Monday evening training. A promise never kept. The jersey game? It arrived in March! With only 3 shorts in size S and everything else in L, XL or XXL. But the majority of the girls wear S and M. However, one of the players had found a sponsor who gave 500 euros to have his logo on our shorts. They took the check. And when the girls pointed out that they weren’t the right size, he replied that they could roll them up… For our last game of the season, he didn’t clear the field for us. Luckily the BOPB allowed us to play on the Aguilera field of honor…»
The coach feels sorry for his daughters who suffer from being discredited in this way. “When we pointed out that he was very rarely present at the women’s games, he dared to answer us “Understand me, I have a family life and a professional life…” To players who take days off to play and train! We are the only section of the BO that has no staff. We are all volunteers. It’s certainly our passion, but we’re entitled to a modicum of respect.He pauses. Before he lets go of what’s on his mind. “In the press, Couzinet said: “We will finally keep the cadets to help them practice our sport.” Our sport? In fact, he’s totally misogynistic.» «It bothers him that women are against his ideas, adds Elodie Rousseau. At the beginning of April he was outraged that we had signed the convening of the GA. But we’re not in kindergarten!»
“Firing us is ultimately a strength they give us: to prove to them that we are worth more than they think. »
Élodie Rousseau, captain of the “BOtés”
What does the future of the “BOtés” look like? David Couzinet conjured up a mist”realignment of structures“. This means? “I do not know, admits Florian Mercader. He also said that the women’s department would become professional in two or three years. I am not aware of this measure. He’s just trying to cover himself. He also says we will return to FAR, which I founded in 2014. But the club has been dormant since we joined the BO in 2018. There are no more licensees. And even if we restart the FAR, we have to find money, land, dressing rooms, a stadium for matchdays… Fortunately, the Liga Nouvelle-Aquitaine has promised us that they will not let us down. You can’t believe what’s happening to us.»
The future is blurry. “The girls are disgusted, sad, but motivated. Will they remain so as events unfold? It is double or ended. Either we start off much stronger by doing business alone; or we put the key under the door.His captain’s determination will no doubt reassure him. “I’m waiting for Mr. Couzinet to call us so that he has the courage to explain his decision face to face. Everything we’ve done they throw in the trash. We were stunned at the time, but we will fight. They won’t destroy everything we’ve built. This fight connects us even more. We all stand behind the staff together. We’ll all be there and we’ll go all the way! Firing us, after all, is a power they give us: to prove to them that we’re worth more than they think.»
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