Incumbent Altrad 'is only bidder' for France shirt sponsorship
Altrad, the French construction materials firm that sponsors the shirts of the French rugby union team, is the only bidder for a long-term contract, it has been reported.
At the end of last month, the FFR, the French rugby federation, launched a consultation procedure to find a shirt sponsor for the national team for a six-year period starting in 2018.
Bernard Laporte, the president of the FFR, had said that a deal should generate up to €60 million ($71 million). A first-ever France shirt sponsor was part of his election manifesto last year, and Altrad came on board, in a short-term deal, in March.
However, competition for the rights from 2018 to 2023 has been limited, with Altrad, which is headed up by Syrian billionaire Mohed Altrad, the president of French Top 14 club Montpellier, the only company to submit an offer by the 16 November deadline, according to French sports newspaper L’Equipe.
It is reported that Altrad was initially offering around €7 million ($8.2 million) per season before bonuses, but that its bid has now been refined ahead of the signing of a final contract.
The company also held talks about the title sponsorship of the annual Six Nations Championship, although the organisers of the competition ultimately decided to agree a one-year extension valued at £8 million ($10.6 million) with incumbent Royal Bank of Scotland, under which the rights pass to subsidiary NatWest for the 2018 tournament.
According to the timeline set out in the invitation to tender, the FFR was set to confirm a new shirt sponsorship deal at a steering committee meeting scheduled for today.
It is thought that the lack of competition could have been influenced by the relatively short bidding window of just two and a half weeks.
In addition to kit supplier Adidas, the FFR’s existing major sponsors are GMF, Société Générale, Orange and BMW, but, of these, only BMW is said to have shown interest in the shirt sponsorship opportunity, and this was not followed up.
It is understood that the four commercial partners had revocation clauses in their contracts in the event of the FFR signing up a France shirt sponsor, meaning they would be able reduce their contribution.
Altrad’s current deal expires after France’s home game against Japan on Saturday. Until now, Its logo has been displayed on the front of the shirts, below that of France’s (ultimately successful) bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
However, the partnership with Altrad has proved to be somewhat controversial, with Laporte accused of favouritism in meddling with the appeals board’s sanctions against Montpellier in relation to supporters' banners displayed last season.
Seven members of the appeals board have since
resigned, and it was revealed by Journal du Dimanche that Altrad Investment
Authority, owned by Altrad, and BL Communication, managed by Laporte, signed
a one-year partnership last February to give management talks to
Laporte has rejected allegations of wrongdoing and claimed that he did not try to influence the board’s decision, but instead phoned Jean-Daniel Simonet, the appeals board chairman, to offer “political perspective.” He has since ended the agreement with Altrad Investment Authority amid the increasing pressure.
The inspectorate general of the ministry of youth and sports is set to publish a report on the matter at the end of the month.
However, Laporte is unconcerned about the outcome, and denies he has any plans to resign.
He told radio station Europe 1 last week: “I have no apprehension. When you have made a mistake, you are shaking, you are afraid, but I have not made a mistake, so I am waiting for it with a lot of determination and serenity.
“Everyone does their job, the inspectors do theirs, I know what it is, I was secretary of state for sports, I know what it is the inspectorate general so I am waiting with a lot of serenity.”