French Rugby Federation: A look back at the election of the new president and its political consequences

“When you lose a match, it’s never very pleasant, but what I remember is the turnout. The clubs voted massively and made a choice: they chose a cohabiting president. 

Patrick Buisson (AFP)

After Bernard Laporte’s legal troubles and his ousting as head of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), the election, mid-June, of Florian Grill as its new president raises more questions than it solves.

Florian Grill, who was running against Patrick Buisson, was elected on Wednesday 14 June until the end of 2024, after obtaining 58.14% of the votes in his favour, compared to 41.86% for his opponent, who is close to Bernard Laporte.

This vote was the result of a nationwide consultation. All clubs in the country were invited to vote in the election. According to the Federation, the turnout was high, with votes from clubs representing 95.47% of total votes. He succeeds Alexandre Martinez, who has held the post on an interim basis since 3 February.

Before looking at the consequences of this election, it is necessary to recall the operating rules of the French Rugby Federation.

  • How elections and FFR bodies work
  1. The Federal Bureau

If we look at the FFR’s articles of association and internal regulations, which are up to date for the 2023-2024 season, the federal bureau, which is the executive body, is made up of 12 members who come from the management committee, and who are elected by an absolute majority by the management committee, following the president’s proposal of a single blocked list.

The office has a variety of responsibilities:

“Its mission is:

  • to study, if necessary with the help of the federal commissions and administrative departments, all questions which must be submitted to the Executive Committee for a decision, and to present them to the Executive Committee with all the information required for a decision to be taken.
  • To deal itself with matters whose importance does not justify action by the Executive Committee or whose urgency does not allow it to wait for the next meeting of the Executive Committee.
  • In this case, it is the responsibility of the Executive Committee to report to the Executive Committee on the decisions it has taken, so that they can be ratified.
  • monitoring the implementation of decisions taken either by the Executive Committee or by the Board itself.
  • To deal with any matters requested by the Executive Committee.

As we have seen, the federal bureau acts as an executive, dealing with current and urgent matters, reporting to the federal committee, and above all preparing the committee’s work.

  • 2. The steering committee

The Executive Committee is built like an assembly. It has 37 seats and offers full representation of the clubs.

The 37 members are elected for a 4-year term by the General Meeting of clubs. This election is carried out by list, and the first 37 names that come up are elected. These 37 names are supplemented by three elected members appointed by the national rugby League.

In addition, by-elections may be held for members who resign from the Committee, or seats may be put back to the vote by a decision of the General Meeting convened by one-third of its members.

Once elected, and once the federal bureau is validated, the committee’s remit is as follows:

“It shall lead and direct actions in pursuit of the Federation’s objectives, as defined in Title 3 of its Articles of Association, by:

  • Approving the objectives, action plans, policies, budgets and structures of each F.F.R. sector for each sporting season;
  • Monitoring the implementation of these forecasts and rectifying their application if necessary;
  • Drawing up an assessment of actions and budgetary achievements in relation to forecasts, identifying the causes of any significant discrepancies at the end of the season“.

Looking at the federation’s articles of association, we can deduce that the Board is dependent on the approval of its actions by the Federal Committee, as it is of the Federal Committee’s budget.

  • The consequences of the election for institutional relations

Prior to his election as President, Florian Grill and his list had already won a by-election to the Management Committee, bringing the number of representatives to 11 out of the twelve seats on offer. Bernard Laporte’s outgoing list won just 1 seat. This by-election had been organised following the resignations of the oppositions, following the revelation of Bernard Laporte’s offences.

So, despite winning the federal elections both for the Committee and the Presidency, the teams already in place under the former presidency still hold a majority of 29 seats. Out of the 40 elected, Florian Grill’s list has just 11 seats.

As a result, the new President will have to work hand in hand with the elected opposition members of the Comité Fédéral, who are often former or current members of Bernard Laporte’s entourage.

The federal bureau is also fragmented, since it is currently made up of 12 members, with 7 elected from Ovale Ensemble and 5 from the former majority. The new head of the FFR will have as his right-hand man, the former treasurer and interim president Alexandre Martinez. A member of the previous team, he will take on the role of deputy president and will also be responsible for monitoring the World Cup.

In addition to these internal political concerns, Florian Grill is facing an operating loss of 13 million euros, and is seeking to increase its expenditure by 3 million. He must therefore reach an agreement with the Management Committee to obtain funding totalling sixteen million euros.

  • The first weeks of the President’s term: a peaceful cohabitation.

As presented, the power of the committee is therefore very important in relation to the federal office, and Florian Grill could quickly be blocked in his actions. The president of the federation will have one last option, which is to call an extraordinary general meeting and dissolve the federal committee in accordance with the articles of association in order to consolidate his majority.

Florian Grill’s presidency appears to have got off to a constructive start, as evidenced by the committee’s unanimous adoption of the new manufacturer of French team shirts. The chairman also rightly pointed out that he had voted in favour of 80% of the measures taken by the previous majority.

It remains to be seen how the groups will react if they clash. Above all, we will be keeping a close eye on how the Grill-Martinez hinge works. The next step is the 2023 World Cup