French rugby president Laporte resigns in corruption case
PARIS (AP) — French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte resigned on Friday to avoid further embarrassing France’s preparations for staging the Rugby World Cup this year.
A Paris court in December found Laporte guilty of passive corruption, influence peddling, illegal interest taking and misuse of corporate assets.
Laporte was suspended from FFR duties while he fought his suspended two-year sentence on the corruption charges. But his nominee as interim president, Patrick Buisson, was rejected by French rugby clubs in a close vote on Thursday.
L’Equipe newspaper first reported that Laporte resigned during a FFR executive committee meeting with French sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra on Friday morning.
The sports ministry told the Associated Press that Oudéa-Castéra was informed of Laporte’s resignation upon her arrival at the meeting. The FFR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Oudéa-Castéra welcomed Laporte’s decision, which she said was “necessary” following the vote of the clubs.
“Bernard Laporte has drawn conclusions, which is a good thing for French rugby, for its values and for the future,” Oudéa-Castéra was quoted as saying by French media.
She recommended the entire executive committee resign in order to hold new general elections.
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Her view was backed by the French rugby league (LNR), whose two representatives on the executive committee resigned on Friday to distance themselves from the previous regime. The LNR called for an overhaul and new elections within six weeks to “bring some appeasement back to French rugby.”
Laporte was France coach from 1999-2007, winning the Six Nations four times. Then he coached southern club Toulon from 2011-16, winning three European Cups.
He became FFR president in late 2016 and World Rugby vice-chairman in 2020. He has stepped back from World Rugby duties.
In a separate case, he was detained for questioning on Tuesday by police in regard to suspected tax-related wrongdoing being investigated by France’s national prosecution office on financial crimes.
Laporte was previously sentenced in a conflict-of-interest case that involved Mohed Altrad, the owner and president of Montpellier rugby club.
In 2017, Laporte denied accusations that he pressured the FFR appeals board to reduce sanctions against Montpellier. Following a three-month investigation, the French sports ministry said Laporte’s intervention with the appeals board president resulted in commission members reducing a fine against Montpellier from 70,000 euros ($76,000) to 20,000 euros ($21,800), and the cancellation of a one-game stadium ban.
Altrad, a billionaire and close friend of Laporte, sealed a partnership with the FFR to become the first shirt sponsor of the Tricolors in 2018. The FFR said at the time its ethical committee judged the sponsorship deal did not cause a conflict of interest. The Altrad group was the sole bidder.
In another recent blow to France’s prestige, former World Cup organizing chief executive Claude Atcher was fired last year following an investigation by French labor inspectors into his workplace conduct.
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