Rugby

Top 14 chiefs to meet over Racing-Stade Francais merger

2017-03-15 19:00

Paris - France's professional rugby leaders are to hold an emergency meeting Friday amid a strike threat by players over the controversial planned merger between Top 14 clubs Racing 92 and Stade Francais.

Racing's billionaire owner Jacky Lorenzetti and Stade Francais counterpart Thomas Savare announced the plan on Monday and Stade Francais players have threatened industrial action.

The Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) said the proposal "provokes many reactions, questions and concerns, both for the social and cultural impacts linked to this merger and the sporting consequences for the Top 14".

"Representatives of both sporting companies (professional) and associations (amateur), players' representatives and coaches" were invited to a meeting "to assess and ensure the best handling of all dimensions of the proposal".

"The LNR calls for dialogue, will pay close attention to this affair, unprecedented in the world of professional rugby, and intends to work to ensure the interests of all stakeholders, particularly the players, coaches and employees of the two clubs."

Speaking later Wednesday, LNR president Paul Goze struck an optimistic note, saying a "solution can be found" while not wishing to comment on the players' strike.

"The LNR cannot take decisions but can ensure that all parties are listened to and there's consensus."

Goze described himself as "optimistic by nature" and convinced that "from the moment when there's dialogue, a solution can be found".

Robins Tchale Watchou, head of Provale, the professional rugby players' union, added that the French rugby federation (FFR) were against the merger after exiting a meeting also attended by FFR number two Serge Simon.

Simon, a former Stade Francais player, voiced "very clearly the federation's disapproval on the merit and the form" of the merger during the meeting, Tchale Watchou said, Simon himself making no comment to the press.

"In a climate of tension, you must leave room for dialogue, but the condition of the players for the notice of strike to be lifted is that there is the definitive and total stop of this merger plan.

"I can only be optimistic, I hope for rugby and the players that we will find a favourable outcome."

Stade Francais lock Pascal Pape, a 65-times capped France international, slammed the fusion of the winners of the past two Top 14 titles into one super club as "the death of 136 years of the club's history".

Players voted overwhelmingly for strike action and will not train or play in Saturday's Top 14 clash against Castres, he said.

Rival clubs expressed fears over the creation of a new super club while the French Rugby Federation and the Paris city government complained they had been kept in the dark about the move.

Lorenzetti paved the way for a cull of players, saying half the combined roster of about 90 professionals on the books at the two clubs could be axed.

Read more on:    racing 92  |  stade francais  |  top 14  |  rugby
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