Bernard Laporte steps back from FFR presidency until corruption appeal is heard

By Sports Desk December 19, 2022

Bernard Laporte will step back from his role as president of the French Rugby Federation after his corruption conviction, but he could return to the top office.

Former France coach Laporte wanted to remain in charge at the federation (FFR), but on Monday accepted a ruling by its ethics committee that he must relinquish power.

Handed a two-year suspended prison sentence last Tuesday, Laporte stepped down from his role as vice-chairman of World Rugby within hours as an act of "self-suspension." Now he will follow a similar tack with French rugby's top authority.

An investigation examined a number of decisions made by Laporte that favoured Mohed Altrad, the president of Top 14 side Montpellier, including the award of a shirt sponsorship deal for the France national team to Altrad's construction business.

Laporte, who was France's head coach between 1999 and 2007, was also hit with a €75,000 fine and a two-year ban from involvement in rugby by the Paris Criminal Court.

He has denied any wrongdoing and is to appeal against his court punishments. Consequently, the FFR has not ousted Laporte permanently at this stage, giving him the chance to clear his name.

The ethics committee told the 58-year-old he must accept "provisional withdrawal, as a precaution until a final criminal decision" from all presidential duties, with a temporary successor to be put in place.

According to the FFR, Laporte elected to follow the instruction "to the letter." He will remain president, officially at least, but be powerless.

"He is asked to withdraw temporarily while the final criminal decision is made," the federation said.

"This implies in particular that the president will no longer participate in the various decision-making bodies of the French Rugby Federation, and will no longer sign any commitment under the FFR."

The FFR said it intended for the action to take effect after a meeting between Laporte and Amelie Oudea-Castera, France's sports minister, which is scheduled for Thursday.

Oudea-Castera was among the first to call for Laporte to step down following his conviction, saying it would be inappropriate for him to remain in control ahead of France hosting the Rugby World Cup next year.

She has also voiced opposition to the idea of a stand-in president, questioning the "legitimacy" of such a presence at the top of the organisation.

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