France boss focuses on wider TV exposure

French Federation chief Luc Lacoste wants to turn back time and put Rugby League back on television screens in France.

A decision by the FFRXIII ruling body to reject live TV broadcast contracts for fear of an impact upon gate receipts in the 1970s is widely believed to have been the game’s biggest downfall in France and the new Chairman wants to put the 13-a-side code back in front of the viewing public.

“We have to revisit a decision that we should never have made,” Lacoste announced at the weekend.

Following the “glory years” of the 1950s for the French game, Rugby League was in prime position to become the leading rugby code in the country, but when offers to cover the game on TV were rejected, broadcasters turned to rugby union, which then exploded in popularity because of the increased exposure and it remains the dominant code in France.

Now Lacoste, who took over as President last December, is making it his mission to put the French game back on the box.

He said, “Already, we have ensured that our Elite One Championship will be on television this year with regional TV company Via Occitanie and ‘Sport in France’, but we need to do so much more to raise our profile.

“Just a few days ago our sport was at the forefront of the French sporting scene with a first-rate TV production broadcast of the France-England international on renowned TV channels such as the BBC, Fox in Australia and L’Equipe TV. These channels congratulated the Federation on the quality of the production and the show on offer.

“The equal treatment of the women’s and men’s teams, both broadcast live on major international channels, clearly sets our sport apart, and we can be proud of it. No other sport does this like we do.”

Lacoste called for unity among the many factions within French Rugby League to offer a collective approach to broadcasters, adding: “We learned so much from these televised internationals and although we can see the progress that remains to be made, we now know that everything is possible to put this sport back where it belongs.

“Let’s not skip the steps and above all let us remain united because it is the essential key to our success.

“It is all together that we will succeed in the ambition, perhaps a little crazy, that we have set ourselves: to rebuild the XIII into what it should never have ceased to be.”

Lacoste was last week appointed to the Board of International Rugby League (IRL) as one of three European Rugby League-nominated Directors.

The FFRXIII President said, “Joining the Board of IRL gives me great pride and I am happy to join the other members who sit on it. Working under the Chairmanship of Troy Grant is also a great opportunity as we share the same values.

“I thank the members for their warm welcome and I am sure that with good will, we will advance our sport on a global level.”

The make-up of the IRL Board was reviewed in 2016 and as a result, for the first time in its history, three independent directors, one of whom is Chair, were appointed. The review also broadened the positions on the Board to include six Directors appointed directly through the two major confederations, European Rugby League and Asia Pacific Rugby League and two appointed from the countries with the major professional leagues, England and Australia.

IRL Chairman Troy Grant added, “We are a stronger Board with the inclusion of Luc, and I would like to welcome him to the table. Luc brings a huge passion for Rugby League and with that comes a strong vision, ambition, and enthusiasm for what we can achieve together.

“The membership of IRL continues to grow and having someone on the Board who is a natural French speaker brings us even closer to many of our members. We continually strive to improve our engagement with the membership through regular communications and direct member briefing meetings. The appointment of Luc is further progress in this mission.”

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