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Laporte holds off competition to retain FFR presidency

Bernard Laporte speaks during a press conference after he was re-elected as French Rugby Federation president (by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Bernard Laporte will lead the French Rugby Federation (FFR) into its staging of the 2023 Rugby World Cup after being re-elected as president of the governing body.

The FFR’s elective general assembly on Saturday saw Laporte narrowly see off the challenge of rival candidate Florian Grill. Laporte gained 51.47 per cent of the votes, while Grill, president of the Ile-de-France rugby region, gathered 48.53 per cent. Laporte, who first became FFR president in 2016, will now serve for the 2020-2024 term of office.

“To be elected on promises is one thing, to be re-elected on a track record is another,” Laporte, a former France coach and Sports Minister, said, according to the AFP news agency. “The clubs were not fooled. Democracy has spoken. I will be the president of all the clubs.”

Laporte’s re-election comes after a period of turmoil for the recently-elected vice-chairman of World Rugby. Laporte was last month questioned by police as part of an ongoing inquiry into claims he favoured Top 14 club Montpellier, which is owned by his friend, billionaire Mohed Altrad.

Laporte was questioned as part of an investigation which in January 2018 saw the FFR’s headquarters raided by a dozen police officers. The investigation surrounds allegations that Laporte favoured Montpellier by pressuring the Top 14’s appeals committee to hand out a reduced punishment for the club back in 2017.

Laporte has previously admitted that he held a conversation with Jean-Daniel Simonet, head of the appeals committee, but has denied that he intervened in favour of Montpellier. Altrad’s eponymous construction company is also the main shirt sponsor of the French national team as part of a five-year deal running from 2018 to 2023 worth a reported €35m ($41m).

Laporte had questioned the timing of the latest development, coming ahead of the FFR elections.