Bernard Laporte: « They will not take it to heaven, » the former president of the FFR speaks again.

EXCLU MIDI LIBRE. Presque huit mois après sa démission à la tête de la Fédération française de rugby, Bernard Laporte, le grand “oublié” de la Coupe du monde, se livre en exclusivité pour Midi Libre. Un témoignage fort, durant lequel il s’évertue à fuir la polémique, alors qu’en toile de fond, il dit n’avoir rien à se reprocher. « Je ressasserai les choses quand je serai dans le cercueil », confie-t-il.

On December 13, 2022, Bernard Laporte, the former president of the French Federation, was sentenced to a two-year suspended prison term for corruption in favor of Montpellier’s president, Mohed Altrad. Laporte, who resigned from his position eight months ago, now sees himself as a « regular supporter of the French team, » despite being absent from the World Cup that he strongly promoted. He emphasizes that he holds no bitterness or jealousy.

Comment avez-vous réagi en n’ayant pas reçu d’invitation de la part de la Fédération pour le match France-All Blacks le 8 septembre ?

It lacked elegance, class, and respect, but it doesn’t matter. What I wanted was for this event to be magnificent. So I don’t want to create any controversy. You know, what pleased me was when I went to the Vélodrome (in Marseille) to watch two matches during the first weekend (England-Argentina, South Africa-Scotland).

I told my friends, « I have always entered everywhere through the red carpet, now I want to go to the stadium like everyone else. » And it was complicated on Saturday! People kept stopping me to say, « Thank you, Bernard. » It made me really happy. I prefer that over a controversy that puts me in the spotlight. The World Cup is what should be highlighted.

There is no room for bitterness or jealousy, life is too short.

Vous choisissez délibérément de vous retirer ?

Certainly. I want us to talk about the French national rugby team, the World Cup, and France, that’s what’s most important. The controversy should not exist, but afterwards, certain individuals need to take a good look at themselves in the mirror.

Did you feel frustrated for not being able to reap the benefits of winning the World Cup in France during your term?

I promise you that I don’t do that. When I stop something and move on, I’m not the type to dwell on it. I will dwell on it when I’m in the coffin. There is no room for bitterness or jealousy, life is too short.

Do you feel no sense of injustice?

De ne pas avoir été invité, oui. Le reste non. J’ai pris des coups mais sincèrement ça me fait rire. C’est comme taper sur la tête des enfants alors qu’ils ont raison. Ça ne leur fait pas mal. C’est moi qui ai démissionné, j’ai décidé de partir.

You were rather encouraged to leave under business pressure…

Yes, that’s how it is. I am not a calculating person, so why be frustrated if one is the World Champion.

In France, people do not like those who succeed, it is known. There are some who manage to succeed, but their success is short-lived.

Are you angry at someone?

This is personal. If I hold any grudges, it’s against dishonest people, not against a system, that’s clear. But you know, they won’t take it to heaven. We have to let time do its thing, it always works out well. In France, we don’t like successful people, we know that. There are some who succeed briefly, but they don’t last.

Faites-vous référence à votre successeur, Florian Grill ?

No, not at all. It is you who are talking about it.

Avez-vous regardé l’équipe nationale française depuis le début du tournoi ?

I saw them, it’s none of anyone’s business, it’s only our business. If I have to see them again, I will, but I’m not eager to. I communicate a lot with some people, but I’m not eager.

Comment organisez-vous votre journée ?

I watch all the matches. Last weekend, I was enthralled in front of my TV, like an ordinary fan, that’s what I want to be. I am a supporter of the French team.

Croyez-vous qu’il a des chances de remporter le trophée Webb Ellis ?

I deeply believe in her. I believe in Fabien (Galthié), I believe in this staff that we have built together. Shaun Edwards (defense coach), I am the one who signed him, along with many other things. However, anything can happen, the adventure can end in the quarter-finals. In my opinion, four teams can win: France, Ireland, South Africa, and New Zealand.

Par contre, ce que les Bleus ont fait depuis quatre ans est phénoménal. Quand Galthié a pris l’équipe elle était 8eIn the world ranking, she is currently among the top three, with over 80% of victories. I told the players before the start of the competition: « You are exceptional, do something that no one has ever done. »

Ne pensez-vous pas que mes trois titres de Champions du monde des moins de 20 ans sont une source de fierté pour moi ?

Does the French XV team have the maturity and talent necessary this time?

It is obvious, even if they are not alone. Saying that we are better than Ireland and South Africa would be arrogant. But saying that we are at their level is a reality. However, this was not the case when I took over the Federation (on December 3, 2016).

Do you not believe that this, along with the three titles of Under-20 World Champions, is my pride? I also created the « Nationale » championship, I raised the Federation from 106 to 142 million euros… And I am very proud of it.

If I like a challenge and someone calls me for an exciting challenge, I will say « count me in ». I still have the desire to win.

Quelles sont vos attentes concernant les procédures judiciaires vous concernant (il a fait appel de sa condamnation) ?

De montrer qu’on n’a rien fait. Je suis confiant, je sais ce qu’il s’est passé. Tout le monde fait des erreurs, mais dans ce cadre-là, non. Je n’ai rien fait de malhonnête. Si j’avais pris de l’argent à la Fédération, ça aurait été malhonnête, mais ça n’est pas le cas, la Fédé n’a subi aucun désagrément.

I am confident in my position. Both of us (Altrad and him) are being penalized, but I notice that the Federation did not hesitate to re-sign with the sponsor Altrad, isn’t that interesting? It goes beyond just confirming my innocence.

If I like a challenge, I’ll say « banco ». I still have the desire to win.

Il est difficile de vous imaginer éloigné du milieu du rugby pendant longtemps.

There is a possibility that I will come back. It’s not that I’m itching to do so, but like everyone else, I enjoy being wanted. If a challenge appeals to me and I am called for an exciting challenge, I will say « count me in ». I still have the desire to win.

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