New Top 14 chief Bouscatel to 'fight' for clubs

·2-min read
Rene Bouscatel was Toulouse president between 1992 and 2017

Former Toulouse boss Rene Bouscatel said he will "fight tooth and nail" to defend Top 14 clubs after being elected French rugby league (LNR) president on Tuesday.

Bouscatel, 74, won 90 percent of the vote to succeed Paul Goze and faces challenges such as international player availability, changes to the global calendar and the financial impact of Covid-19.

Under Bouscatel, Toulouse won the domestic title on nine occasions and the European Cup a joint-record four times.

The LNR and the French Rugby Federation (FFR) were forced to find an agreement about releasing France squad members for matches last autumn and for this year's Six Nations.

"I will defend club rugby and club competitions tooth and nail. I think there has to be a more positive and constructive dialogue," he said.

"I was president of a club that was playing at the top of the table and that was heavily disrupted by international player availability due to the season schedule."

World Rugby are keen to change the playing season to align hemispheres but French and English clubs oppose it.

To lighten the domestic schedule, the idea of reducing the French top flight to 12 teams was mooted by some club presidents.

"I was moved by Paul Goze, I felt that a Top 12 would resolve a lot of problems of dates... But I've changed a lot," Bouscatel said.

"Rugby is much bigger than the problems of one club, and I think the current model has more advantages than inconveniences."

Ticket sales represent a significant percentage of club's incomes, but Top 14 and second-tier Pro D2 games have been played behind closed doors since November.

Earlier this month, the LNR announced Canal+ had won the rights to broadcast the Top 14 in France between 2023-2027 for a record fee of 113.6 million euros ($135 million) a year.

"We're going through a difficult period, like the rest of the world and all other sectors," Bouscatel said.

"I want to be the president of a united and strong league committed to a partnership with the FFR, notably around the big objective of the 2023 Rugby World Cup."

The 2023 World Cup will be played in France, with the hosts hoping to bounce back after successive quarter-final exits.