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SPORT

Olympics: papers rib French performance and British self-praise

France came seventh in the Olympic league table, winning 34 medals in total - seven less than in Beijing. But as the athletes file onto the Eurostar before a homecoming parade along the Champs Elysée Monday evening, what is the French press saying about the games?

French team were “lacklustre”.

Anyone watching the France 2 Olympic coverage last night – the most watched channel in France for the games, beating TF1 and Eurosport – will have seen nothing but self-congratulatory montages (even the France 2 production team in London got a pat on the back – make-up artist included).

But back on French soil, the papers weren’t so friendly.

Le Monde leads with a quote from the minister for Sports, Valeria Fourneyron, made in an announcement after France’s “lacklustre” effort: “France’s performance is going to be dealt with swiftly,” she said.

The sport that received the most criticis was fencing. In a team France round-up, Le Figaro gave the fencers a collective “dunce’s cap” for their performance, complaining they did not get “even a hint of a medal” for the first time since the 1960s.

Even Fourneyron chimed in, saying: “It’s clear that for fencing we have to put in our all [for the next games]”.

But no matter how disappointing France’s achievements were to the French press, there has been no further mention of basketball player, Nicolas Batum, and the punch thrown at his Spanish counterpart in last week’s match.

London 2012

Of course, Olympic analysis wouldn’t be complete without a word or two on London’s hosting skills. Le Figaro’s London correspondent, Florentin Collomp, noted how quick the Brits were to pat themselves on the back for doing such a good job.

Prime Minister David Cameron speaking about Seb Coe, head of the Olympic committee, particularly caught his eye. He quoted Cameron saying: “Seb Coe is already a Lord. I don’t have the power to make him an Earl or a Duke, but if I could I would.”

Even the brief truce between the Conservative and the Labour party during the Olympics has impressed Collomp, calling it a “sacred union”.

The royals have also garnered their fair share of column inches. Le Monde observed each of the younger royals has done their fair share of the Olympic-rounds, all at the bidding of the media-savvy Queen.

Prince William has attended swimming, athletics, judo and rowing, while Kate was present at tennis and gymnastics.

Harry “the lady killer”, as the paper called him, “was anywhere pretty girls could be found too,” namely volleyball and cycling.

Paris 2024?

Now, with the two weeks of sporting events over, France has started looking to the future. For the weeks to come, excitement is mounting over the 164 members of the French paraolympian team.

But looking further ahead, the French bid for the 2024 Olympics is well underway, with sports minister Fourneyron vowing to put in her all.

“You have to see putting in a bid right up until the end. Three failures in a row is just too much.

“The games aren’t just a fortnight of public display and infrastructure – we’ve seen that in London. It’s also about businesses and innovations.”

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SPORT

French rugby in turmoil as FFR boss gets suspended sentence over corruption

Lawyers for FFR President Bernard Laporte said he was going to appeal against the court's verdict

French rugby in turmoil as FFR boss gets suspended sentence over corruption

French rugby was reeling Tuesday after the president of the country’s governing body Bernard Laporte was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence on corruption charges nine months before France hosts the game’s World Cup.

Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR) president Laporte, 58, was convicted after a French court ruled he showed favouritism in awarding a shirt sponsorship contract for the national side to Mohed Altrad, the billionaire owner of Top 14 champions Montpellier. He was also banned from holding any rugby post for two years. Both are suspended pending an appeal, which Laporte’s lawyer said was imminent.

Laporte later stepped down from his role as vice-chairman of the sport’s global governing body, World Rugby, pending a review by the body’s ethics officer.

“World Rugby notes the decision by World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte to self-suspend from all positions held within its governance structures with immediate effect following his conviction by the French court in relation to domestic matters, and pending his appeal,” World Rugby said.

“While acknowledging Laporte’s self-suspension and right of appeal, given the serious nature of the verdict World Rugby’s Executive Committee has referred the matter to its independent ethics officer for review in accordance with its integrity code,” it added.

Resignation call
Laporte faces problems on the domestic front, too, with Florian Grill, who narrowly lost to him in the 2020 election for federation chief, calling for Laporte and the entire board to stand down.

“It is unheard of in rugby, this is an earthquake,” Grill told AFP. “We have never before seen a president of the federation condemned to two
years in prison, even if it suspended.

“We think the 40 members of the board of directors should draw the obvious conclusions and resign.”

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said the sentence was an “obstacle for Bernard Laporte to be able, as it stands, to continue his mission in good conditions” as federation president, and called for a “new democratic era to allow French rugby to rebound as quickly as possible and sufficiently healthy and solid, with a governance by the federation that will have the full confidence of the clubs”.

The court found that Laporte ensured a series of marketing decisions favourable to Altrad – who was given an 18-month suspended sentence and
€50,000 euro — in exchange for a €180,000 image licensing contract that was never actually carried out.

Altrad’s lawyer said he would study the decision before deciding on whether to appeal.

At the trial’s close in September, prosecutors said they were seeking a three-year prison sentence for Laporte, of which he should serve one behind bars, and the two others on probation.

The friendship and business links between Laporte and Altrad are at the heart of the case.

It goes back to February 2017, when they signed a deal under which Laporte agreed to appear at Altrad group conferences, and sold his image reproduction rights, in return for €180,000.

But while that sum was  paid to Laporte, prosecutors claim that he neveractually provided the services he signed up for.

Laporte did, however, make several public statements backing Altrad and, in March 2017, signed the €1.8 million deal with the businessman making his namesake firm the first-ever sponsor to appear on the French national team’s jerseys.

The Altrad name and logo still features on the shirts thanks to a follow-up deal negotiated by Laporte in 2018 and which prosecutors say bears all the hallmarks of corruption. It is also on the All Blacks’ national squads’ shirts, and New Zealand Rugby is reportedly seeking an urgent meeting with company officials following the court ruling.

Laporte, formerly a highly successful coach who guided France twice to the World Cup semi-finals (2003 and 2007), was also found guilty of favouritism
with regards to Altrad’s Montpellier Herault Rugby (MHR) club.

He was convicted for intervening with French rugby’s federal disciplinary commission to reduce a fine against the club from €70,000 to €20,000 after several telephone calls from Laporte.

While prosecutors saw this and several more incidents as proof of illicit favouritism, Laporte himself had claimed there was no “cause-effect relationship”.

On the last day of the trial in October, Laporte’s lawyer Fanny Colin accused the prosecution of “confirmation bias” by “taking into account only elements backing their original assumptions”.

The verdict comes only nine months before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in France on September 8, 2023, with matches played in nine stadiums across the country.

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