Published on : 05/26/2020 – 16:55Modified : 05/26/2020 – 16:55
The health crisis has not spared French rugby, which must make drastic savings to ensure its survival. Difficult, under these conditions, to attract the stars of ovalism.
Is the French rugby model on the verge of collapse? For several weeks, the transfer market has been idling in the face of the uncertainties linked to the health and economic crisis and the stars of the southern hemisphere will in any case not join France this summer.
The drastic economic measures of the southern federations (wage cuts of 60% in Australia, -50% for the All Blacks, -40% in South Africa …) could have opened the doors of the French market to certain big names of the world rugby. But the Top 14, the usual pole of attraction, is also affected.
Even for the South African Pieter-Steph du Toit, the best player in the world in 2019, things are complicated: a time announced in Montpellier, the third line of the Springboks will not ultimately join the MHR. In any case, not immediately.
“Du Toit interests me. But so far, I have had no contact with him. And then, now is not the time to talk about recruitment …” said Mohed Altrad, the president of the club Hérault, in the columns of the Olympic Midi.
Difficult, in fact, to justify the annual 1.2 million (nearly 100,000 euros monthly that would make Du Toit the highest paid player in the world) while negotiations have been launched for a drop in player wages.
The Englishman Maro Itoje, like the world champions Siya Kolisi, Frans Malherbe, Steven Kitshoff, Makazole Mapimpi or Lukhanyo Am, have been offered in France. In vain.
“There are a lot of players, but the clubs today have no place. Neither the budget nor the salary cap”, explains agent Laurent Quaglia, who notably participated in the finish from Australian Kurtley Beale at Racing 92.
“There are deals that should have been made but that are not done because of the health situation. All the deals announced were signed a long time ago,” added the sports agent.
An exploding bubble
As a result, the current negotiations are going down. The contracts are shorter, the wages less important.
“It is a bubble that explodes. Today, the clubs will have to realize the reality: they live beyond their means”, abounds Damien Dussault, agent of Julien Caminati, recently passed from Castres to Montauban.
“In the players market, the discussions never stopped too much. They are slow because some do not know their budget well, some do not know when we resume … There is a domino effect to say: ‘Is – Aren’t we going to pay for someone who is just going to train or come later? ‘”, says Dussault.
Because uncertainty weighs on club grants as much as on players. And even big clubs, like Clermont or Toulouse, are not immune.
“Recruitment will be limited because the crisis will force us to review things. We are losing five players, we have to compensate them. Transfers, recruitments are rather at a standstill when, usually, everything is already done”, said Thomas Lombard, director general of the Stade Français, in an interview with AFP, where he explained that he expected a budget reduction of 20%.
“In Pro D2, they pay attention to the nearest euro. In the Top 14, they pay attention to the nearest player. The number of players. Because we are on bigger contracts,” said Dussault again.
“Today, the clubs are in the economy. Some people said to me: ‘There are four recruitments that we will not do: in certain positions, we will do with our young people or we will try to save certain guys who ‘we already have and we might not have kept, “he says.
With less than three years to go to a World Cup at home, French rugby is still looking for ways to survive.