at the Laporte trial, behind the scenes of the awarding of the Rugby World Cup

If France welcomes the Rugby World Cup in 2023she owes it in part to the massive man standing at the helm: Claude Atcher attempted on Thursday to clarify the links, sometimes vague, forged with the federation and which led him to the Paris Criminal Court. "I have the weakness to think that I am one of the main architects of the victory of France“, Slips this 67-year-old former rugby player who chaired the organizing committee of the 2023 World Cup until his layoff at the end of August for managerial practices deemed “alarming".

These are other grievances that earned him to appear for "breach of trustalongside the president of the French Federation (FFR) Bernard Laporte. With the consent of the latter, Claude Atcher and his company Score XV would have received undue sums from 2017, when he was piloting France's candidacy for the World Cup. The National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) notably retained the payment by the FFR of governance aid of 21,000 euros which would never have been executed and the payment to Score XV of a bonus of 30,000 euros. In total, the damage for the federation would amount to 80,400 euros.

At the helm, Mr. Atcher first recalls his service record. Over the past twenty years, he has successfully piloted three Rugby World Cup bids, for France (2007, 2023) and Japan (2019). When Mr. Laporte, who had just become president of the FFR, called on him in early 2017, the French application file was "completely emptyrecalls Mr. Atcher. However, there are only a few months left to submit it to international bodies.

"To rise to the challenge"

"When we discovered that nothing had been done, Bernard asked me to take up the challengesays Mr. Atcher. The 845-page file submitted in June will allow France to win the bet in November 2017 and Mr. Atcher will then take the head of the Public Interest Group (GIP) responsible for organizing the 2023 World Cup. process, commercial links are established between his company and the federation, for a total amount estimated at more than 300,000 euros and without major legal formalism: the accepted quotes, even summary ones, act as a contract.

"We were in a hurry“, justifies Bernard Laporte at the helm. At the end of the investigation, only one of them, for an amount of 21,000 euros and relating to a governance mission, will ask questions because it would not have been translated "by no real benefit“, according to the prosecution.

At the helm, Mr. Atcher assures that it is a "misunderstanding» and that this mission has been carried out: it was a question of preventing possible «difficulties» in relations with the FFR which, once the World Cup has been awarded, loses the management of the file in favor of the Public Interest Group. Mr. Atcher assures that he had already witnessed such tensions before the 2007 World Cup in France and affirms that he did not want "repeat the same mistakes".

Atcher accused of confusing his personal accounts with those of his company

"We wanted everyone to feel involved“adds Bernard Laporte. Regarding the bonus of 30,000 euros, the Anti-Corruption Agency was surprised that it "does not come under a collegial decision of the FFR“, recalls the president of the court.

Without commenting on its contractual regularity, Mr. Atcher defends the legitimacy of this bonus when all the employees of the FFR had received a bonus. "I found it unfortunate that Score XV did not benefit from a bonus that rewards its merit“, maintains the defendant, who affirms not to have perceived any”every penny" personally.

However, this distinction is not effective for the PNF who accuses Mr. Atcher of having confused his personal accounts with those of his company. "It's simple: all of Score XV is an abuse of social good.“, pings the prosecutor François-Xavier Dulin at the hearing, triggering a bronca on the benches of the defense which continues to wonder about the damage of 80,400 euros which would have been caused to the FFR. "I spent a few nights there but never found out where that amount came fromsays Mr. Atcher.

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