Dragons to consider Barcelona invite

CATALANS DRAGONS have been invited to play a Super League fixture at FC Barcelona’s Nou Camp Stadium next season.

The invitation follows an historic appearance at last week’s La Liga clash between Barca and Girona, where Dragons’ President Bernard Guasch, along with his coach and players, paraded Rugby League’s Challenge Cup in front of 76,000 supporters at half-time.

A date still has to be agreed upon, but it is likely to be a fixture with Wigan Warriors on June 8th.

Barca President Josep Maria Bartomeu was said to be “enchanted” by the parade of the Challenge Cup and is keen to help the Dragons gain support in the region. President Guasch said: “Barcelona have kindly invited us, Wigan have agreed and the Super League agrees, so we’re trying to find the date that best matches all parties in order to start promoting the game.

“The President of Barcelona has promised to help us fill the stadium with his socios (supporters’ groups). We’re going to put everything in place now to make this event a success.”

Catalans have previously played a Super League fixture at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona in 2009, when over 18,000 supporters saw Warrington win 12-24, but an appearance at the world famous Nou Camp would be a significant public relations boost for the club and for Super League.

The Cup legacy continued at the weekend when the Dragons announced a major new sponsor at Stade Gilbert Brutus with French financial group BPI.

Former sponsors of Perpignan’s rugby union side USAP, Bpifrance has switched its support to Rugby League, its Executive Director Patrice Begay saying: “The Dragons are hard-working people. It is a young club, a strong and valid economic model. It is a professional club with strong roots and they’ve got it all figured out.

“Bernard Guasch is a recognised entrepreneur, a passionate manager and visionary at the same time.”

In other news from Perpignan, Dragons skipper Rémi Casty has announced his retirement from the French international team after 14 years

Casty said: “It’s been a very hard decision but I have a knee injury which needs attention, so it is time for me to pass on the baton to younger players.”

France are scheduled to play England in Leigh on October 17 and then compete in the European Cup along with Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The tournament, beginning on October 26, acts as a qualifier for the 2021 World Cup.