Claude Atcher (General Manager of France 2023) and René Bouscatel (President of the National Rugby League) – At the beginning of a first collaboration around the 23rd day of the Top 14, the two men agreed to share their ideas and their projects with the same common goal to make French rugby stronger, whether professional or amateur, by 2023. No offense…
What made you associate France 2023 with the top 14?
Claude Atcher: For France 2023 to find a time of communication shared with professional clubs and the league on optimizing the impact of the Rugby World Cup is natural. Making it to the 23rd day of the Top 14 on April 23rd is symbolic. It’s an opportunity we took advantage of.
Rene Bouscatel: Above all, I would like to emphasize the importance of the World Cup in France 2023. Let’s make it a success, even if I’m convinced of it. Today is about men and feelings. It is important to act harmoniously in the interests of rugby, whether amateur or professional.
THAT : Yes, we want to play rugby with a capital ‘R’.
Which concrete actions are carried out together?
THAT : It is an association in which we will mobilize our ability to show our France 2023 logo, our ambassadors in the stadiums.
RB: In particular, there will be a “floor marking”. It’s quite unique that we provide this communication space differently than we do for our partners. There will be messages on the giant screens, LEDs in the colors of France 2023 and other activations.
THAT : The trophy will also be displayed in Marseille as part of the match between RC Toulon and Stade Toulousain. The fictional kick-off will be provided by an apprentice from our Campus 2023 program and Frédéric Michalak.
RB: He learned butt (laughs) ? Seriously, an apprentice from Campus 2023 will open the meeting in each area.
THAT : We also earn spots in the top 14 in Family Dynamics 2023. Today we have 850,000 active members.
Do the results of the XV of France, the attendance records at the Top 14 and Pro D2 stadiums and the organization of the World Cup in France present a rather favorable situation for French rugby?
RB: It is a joint work and our passion for everyone. By working together and uniting, we achieve great results. The Grand Slam is just one step. You have to aim higher, with hard work and some luck.
THAT : It’s an incredible opportunity to host a second World Cup in 16 years. Only a few sports associations have this opportunity. Today we have the experience of 2007, hence the establishment of Campus 2023, a program to train young people working in clubs in the Territories to better anticipate the influx of new licensees. All of that combined with the Grand Slam and the appeal of the top 14 is an incredible dynamic. But let’s not rest on our laurels. René is right, the Grand Slam is just one stage. Without wanting to put too much pressure on, we have to continue on this path to be able to win this World Cup. It is very important for all of French rugby. The aim of all these vectors is to make rugby the first or second sport in France after 2023.
RB: When men share the same goal, same passion, we end up getting along and creating great imitation. We see it today. It may be imperceptible to some, but it is obvious to us. There’s a really good atmosphere.
THAT : We’re used to saying that men make the plans, but that dynamic is crucial today. And relations between France 2023, the federation and the league are in good shape. This desire to collaborate and leverage all of these events is essential.
RB: Even if it might bother some people…
This good understanding was not always given in the past. Isn’t the current success of French rugby the best answer?
RB: i am an example As club president, I have not always had good relations with the FFR. I believe that within the framework of the general interest, we must go beyond the interests of the company and the interests of each club. I discovered it when I became President of the NRL. The general interest must prevail. Today is the Grand Slam of the XV. of France the success of all French rugby. It’s promoting rugby. We are all here to bring rugby to life.
THAT : And we must be aware that 1+1 does not equal 2 if we manage to combine all our added values. Everyone has to understand that for me. 1+1 = 3. Our goal must be to take rugby to a level it has never reached in its history. An example. When I see the LNR’s ambitious CSR programme, when I see this same type of program for France 2023, when I see the FFR starting to follow, this image is crucial in our society today. If we cannot explain the concepts of responsibility and exemplaryness, we are missing the point. Our three institutions are now moving in the same direction.
RB: These are the values of rugby: good manners and coexistence.
THAT : A year ago, the LNR launched Operation Isolated Seniors. We have decided to bring it back to the Rugby World Cup with this association of the poor’s little brothers. All of our Campus 2023 apprentices will contact these isolated people and invite them to a World Cup game. All this to say that you should not hesitate to copy good ideas.
RB: These are ideas that we confusedly share, but didn’t know how to express until then. Today we express them because we talk and work together. In fact, everyone has been working from home so far. We know that the merger will make us more visible.
THAT : We’re not going to solve the problem of ‘isolated seniors’ because I think there are 3 million. But we’ll get 1,500 of them to give them some fun. And for our trainees, it is also a civic awareness of commitment to intergenerational relations.
What will be the next synergies?
THAT : Some professional clubs will hold base camps. Le Lou host New Zealand, Montpellier Samoa and RC Toulon could host South Africa. La Rochelle will also be a base camp for a participating nation. Some managers have also told us about their desire to share their experiences with the club’s staff, who will welcome them. Top 14 clubs are also involved in hospitality marketing. And then we opened up the very important issue of inheritance.
Exactly, Bernard Laporte often mentioned that this legacy was destined exclusively for amateur rugby. Will professional clubs not be interested at all?
THAT : We are working on this topic today.
RB: We are thinking about coordinating targeted actions.
This means ?
RB: Everything will depend on the inheritance, but we are working on issues such as arbitration, training. We discuss it in good company.
THAT : The principle applies that professional clubs and the league benefit proportionally from the legacy of the World Cup. And it seems logical to us, both for France 2023 and for the FFR.
RB: These talks are bearing fruit. We need a global plan for the development of rugby in general, in consultation with the federation, in the interest of all.
Do you understand that there may still be reservations or obstacles to this collaboration?
RB: We need restraint, it’s up to us to know how to overcome it. I know that some professional clubs have not agreed to work with the FFR. Everyone knows that sometimes there are conflicting interests. When a club has ten players in the French team, you can understand that. And yet, it’s not always those who are most affected who cry out the loudest.
THAT : To reinforce this spirit of collaboration, I would like to thank the LNR again for voting for a 2023-2024 calendar that will give its place to the World Cup. There will be no top 14 matches during the competition. Sanctifying the World Cup is a crucial decision for us.
RB: Perhaps some outside of the steering committee flinched, but it happened naturally. We will play before the World Cup and continue right after the final. I understand that this long break can be a problem in preparation, but it seemed like a necessary effort to us. We don’t have a World Cup in France every year. The hardest part will be in 2024. Everything will be a matter of balance.
How can a World Cup in France allow professional clubs to benefit from this event?
THAT : You know, with the 2023 family we have a huge database that we will make available to the clubs. That’s 850,000 people. This legacy has commercial value. As are our 28 partners who we will encourage to continue their investment in rugby.
RB: All our work will be knowing how to keep them beyond the event. We are working on this with France 2023.
THAT : Just as we are thinking about opening up new target groups, especially women, with our partners Facebook and Instagram. There is still commercial value left as a legacy to the LNR and FFR.
RB: For me, the World Cup is a “starter” to develop our entire rugby. We hope to surf and benefit from the success of the event.
THAT : But be careful, let’s stay mobilized. Nothing is won yet. For example, we still have 80 million in revenue to collect.