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Why did French RL go downhill?


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When you look back at the record of the French national team from 1950-1980 it is quite impressive, they were clearly a world power. What exactly happened in the 1980s to cause the game to fall off a cliff? We hear a lot about the Vichy government, but that was before the 1980s and must surely have played a peripheral role by the time the tough times really hit. 

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Not entirely sure. The French RL setting their face against TV couldn't have helped. Being banned in schools too. However, before TV, if you came from Lezignan or Pia you aspired to play RL. Beziers or Dax, RU. Once the 5 Nations and club games were widely available to watch, the attitude and money would have changed, not to mention the nationwide exposure I imagine.

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On ‎9‎/‎11‎/‎2018 at 10:18 PM, eal said:

Vichy is always credited with killing of RL in France, but French RL was at its strongest in the 30 years after WWII. It seems they really lost the plot in the 1980s.

Vichy had already eroded the foundations and RL was up against it thereafter. An estimated 2 million francs of assets were confiscated, which were never returned. That is over 630,000,000 Euros in todays money. That is before you get to the players and clubs that were lost. Without a firm base any sport struggles.

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How did RU have so much more money than RL in France? Was it simply a much more popular sport? Again, Vichy was a good 30-40 years before RL tanked in France so blaming everything on Vichy doesn't really tell the whole story.

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French rugby league has missed important stages like profesionnalism, television etc. Some clubs in major cities like Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille or Paris' have not managed to stay at the highest level because their sponsors and financiers have disappeared. There are only small towns with a strong Treizist culture that are fortunately financially supported by local mayors. but when they disappear or are not elected (like Pia): they collapse. The French sports system is very far from the Anglo-Saxon model, the public authorities own the stadiums, give grants, choose programs on the public TV channels. The Treizistes now have no networks and connections with the world of work and money. There simply should be more Bernard Guasch, everywhere.

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www.fcl13.fr FCL XIII - Lezignan Corbieres Rugby League

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Short answer: it didn't deliver the reason why RL was set up in the first place in the 30's in this country : to overtake rugby (union). The early nickname of 'neo-rugby' was there for a reason.

Once its mission failed and it had no real social/regional boundaries to regroup behind like it did England. It went donwhil fast. The 80's results were juste à late echo, the disaster was set in motion way before (50's, 60's).

Edited by Gambass
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On 21/04/2019 at 10:28, TheConductor said:

Was that shown on English news as I remember saying a big brawl on BBC news and there was loads of flying kicks and thinking at the time were these French Players also Martial Artist or Savate or Le Boxe Française experts lol

I dont know if it made TV news in UK, I am from NZ and was really young at the time.. 1st remember reading about it in 1988 rugby league annual article on French league said game in France was still feeling the effects of the abandoned 1981 french grand final. 

Edited by kiwis 13 6
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On 20/04/2019 at 23:28, TheConductor said:

Was that shown on English news as I remember saying a big brawl on BBC news and there was loads of flying kicks and thinking at the time were these French Players also Martial Artist or Savate or Le Boxe Française experts lol

I remember seeing the brawl on the BBC News. If memory serves me well one of the main culprits was Jean-Jaques Cologni, father of the current French coach.

rldfsignature.jpg

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I believe a big part of the French downfall was an agreement between the codes not to take each others players in the early 70's, if you look through the French teams previous to this they contained many ex union players including internationals which helped the league team. I asked someone about this agreement and this is what he told me:

The agreement was called ‘The Protocol’ between the two (rival) French Federations - of Rugby and Jeu a X111.
It was introduced in 1972, agreed to to by the respective Presidents, Albert Ferrasse and Rene Mauries.
The basic agreement was that clubs from one Federation could not sign players from the rival Federation after they had reached adulthood, (I think this was the age of 20, ie. the age limit for ‘Juniors’) but if they were internationals at Junior level they were also subject to the ‘Protocol’ no signing agreement.
 
It was a deeply unpopular move among Rugby League people as they saw it as a Rugby Union ploy to stop League clubs recruiting Union players, which had been going on since Rugby League was first introduced to France – but, at the same time, Union clubs were very active in snapping up talented League Juniors as they came under the age barrier.  It was seen as Ferrasse strangling a big part of League’s player-supply and also one of its biggest sources of prestige and publicity – and it was done with the backing and approval of the Ministry of Sport.
 
Look back through the history of French R.L. and so many players came into the game from R.Union. ‘The Protocol’ stopped all that.
 
‘The Protocol’ was finally blown out of the water in 1980 when the League’s biggest star, Jean-Marc Bourret, was poached by Rugby Union.  They said it was in response to League signing a Union junior international (Serge Costals) so all ‘protocol’ was cancelled.  And, once again, the government’s Ministry of Sport allowed the Rugby Union to have its way. 
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On 28/04/2019 at 21:39, TheConductor said:

Its sad to see the crowds for grand finals drop from 1960s but still had some good ones 1970 and 1977 and I wonder how the French League couldn't get constant 20000 crowds all the time ?

Even in the 80's they had decent crowds to the Championship Final in Toulouse and Cup Final.

 

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Was either late 70s or early 80s and ARL sent a number of juniors to France to play at FFRXIII clubs. Despite the fact they were 'professionals' and paid to play, apparently the perfectly amateur French RU clubs tried to sign most of them to their game !

Not sure if true but was told that at one point you could be paid up to a certain amount per game and still be considered 'amateur', this was match fee, NOT expenses as far as any sport in France was concerned.

My wife complains I selfishly stop her fulfilling her true ambition -

she really wants to be a rich widow

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On Backchat last week Mike Rylance was a guest and he was asked this question. He said something like there were many reasons but didn't go into them. Perhaps there were too many or maybe he wanted people to obtain his book "The Struggle and the Daring: The remaking of French rugby league" which covers the post WWII game in France. 

My blog: https://rugbyl.blogspot.co.nz/

It takes wisdom to know when a discussion has run its course.

It takes reasonableness to end that discussion. 

 

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He was a league international, kicked a drop goal in the 2nd Test v Australia in Toulouse to clinch the series for the French.

I recall an article about 1980/81 in Rugby League week claiming Balmain were interested in him.

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No one is addressing the elephant in the room. Football blew other sports away and is still king in France. Union managed to retain it south west strongholds but in the north and east was just blow away.

 

League shares the same heartlands as the bigger and wealthier union so it was always gonna be an uphill battle for them especially after world war 1 where they basically had to start from scratch and attract union clubs to come back to the XIII.

French rugby league post 1950 to 1980s was like rugby union in Australia in the 1990 to early 2000s. They pushed well above their weight and never should’ve been as good as they were considering the state of the game.

The dragons can only do so much the XIII to this day in France is unknown to most french. Lots of french can’t see past football .Union is too strong and commercialised to ever be topped. We need more big market teams in SL like Toulouse and hopefully maybe a team in Bordeaux or Montpellier one day.

 

The harsh reality is the soccer culture is so strong in France that league has a better chance at growing in union heartlands even with hostility than growing in soccer areas where there is very little union. To put it simply there needs to be a sizeable rugby culture to crack the market. I’m sure Scottish rugby league fans know the struggle. E.g. how the Wolfpack took advantage if the union culture in Toronto.

The goal of the FFRXIII should be to get at least 30% of RU players playing RL and growing the interest in RL in the Rugby markets in France like they’ve done in Perpignan. 

 

But what rugby league in France really need and what we all want is a successful national team. France union side is at an all time low there’s a market for a successful national team for rugby fans(and yes that is rugby leagues target market in France) and we can fill it. The XV and the XIII need to work together to fight the ever growing football or else France will end up like mainland Europe where it’s football all the way and other sports are non existent do we want France to be like Italy?

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On 20/07/2019 at 04:51, TheConductor said:

Makes you think from that post that we shouldn't in this day and age have 2 Rugby codes as the real enemy wasn't League or Union in the long term but Soccer.

I actually think a lot of fans from both codes would like to see some kind of reconciliation and concerted effort to grow the sport of 'Rugby'. Generally speaking where one is strong the other isn't, so it would appear to be a match made in heaven. Except for over a century of hostility, suspicion and envy. But apart from that...

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It's said that the main pin-up boys in French RU are the props, i think that the farming community has something to do with this, look at NZ and Wales. Climate too, RU and RL are both forward dominated sports, RU a chunk more so than RL obviously. If NZ and Wales were a lot closer to the equator, I'm sure RL would be more popular. 

I heard a comment from a back who played RU during the 1970's, he said that the only back that forwards would allow to drink with them was JPR Williams. I can't believe that backs and forwards were so separated in RL. I'm not a big fan of RU second-rowers, and even some tight-head props, which is why i've watched more RL since 2005.   

Edited by southwalesrabbitoh
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