The closed door or the announced death of French rugby

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Stade Mayol in Toulon, April 18. Frédéric Porcu / SPORTS PRESS

In rugby, eardrums are not used to silence. At least not yet. Scheduled for September 5, the start of the 2020-2021 Top 14 season could take place in empty stadiums or with a reduced gauge to a maximum of 5,000 people due to the sanitary situation. “No matter how hard I look, I can’t remember a private game in camera”, admits Bernard Pontneau, president of the Paloise section (Pyrénées-Atlantiques). For the 63-year-old leader, a match without audience “Does not fit into the genetic formula of rugby”.

Not in DNA or in practice, unlike football. The cousin “penguin” has a habit of punishing clubs for a closed match (total or partial) in the event of their supporters overflowing. He also agreed that this measure would become reality in the coming months, like the Bundesliga since May 16.

“We play for this look, these applause, for good defense, good thrust in melee”, Robins Tchale-Watchou, president of the Provale union

But this German model hardly attracts Franck Azéma. If we have to, we may have to adapt to that sighs Clermont coach and sporting director, who knows what he’s talking about. In 2017, the English of the Saracens welcomed the Auvergne on the sly for a European Cup match in the middle of winter. They had avoided bringing their supporters because of the ice, for safety reasons, remembers the Clermont technician. We could hear each other giving instructions, it lacked flavor. Sharing with the public is something well entrenched in rugby. ”

“We play for this look, these applause, for good defense, good thrust in melee. I just can’t imagine this, even if this crisis has shown us that everything is possible “, continues Robins Tchale-Watchou, a former second line who became president of the national rugby union, Provale.

Read also “Without an audience, high performance sport is no longer a living spectacle”

Besides, the idea of ​​organizing final stages without an audience in the spring was quickly rejected. Even the presidents involved in the fight for the Brennus Shield preferred to store the 2019-2020 season in a box, rather than spoiling the showcase of their sport. “It would have been counterproductive in terms of sport and image, recognizes Bernard Pontneau. Rugby is the conviviality market, especially during the final stages; there, with the camera, we weren’t there at all. “

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