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Top 14: Financial crisis deepens at Stade Francais after Max Guazzini files for fraud

22 June 2011


Uncertain future: Stade Francais

Photo: Eoin Mundow/Cleva Media

Once mighty Stade Francais are facing up to the very real prospect of beginning next season in ProD2 - or worse - after the latest twist in their ongoing financial drama.

The 13-time French champions appeared saved from that possibility when FACEM - a previously unheard of Canadian company -  appeared to come to their rescue with a €12m investment on June 6th which would have given them a 66% stake in the Paris club. But that deal has now been thrown into turmoil amid allegations of fraud from current Stade Francais president Max Guazzini.

The flamboyant Stade owner had wanted to downscale his own investment in the club after more than a decade of dipping into his own pocket, but the deal bringing in the Canadian investors - which was brokered by Bernard Laporte - now appears to have collapsed in spectacular style.

Guazzini claims that "documents and guarantees provided by FACEM in the name of a major international bank are falsified", and has subsequently called the French fraud squad to investigate.

FACEM's president Job Ariste, a Haitian-born Montreal businessman, claims there has been no wrong-doing and that all proper documentation (and cash) will be forthcoming once his own organisation has completed its own due diligence.

"We were only give two weeks to wrap up everything," he told Canadian media. "You have to understand that a deal of that scope can't be done in such a short time. We already provided financial guarantees. I don't know why people are panicking over nothing," said Mr Ariste.

"Once everything is clear and we have a full grasp of the situation and know where we're putting our feet, at that time the funds will be transferred and they can have their funds," he added.

FACEM is a private foundation claiming to carry out humanitarian work for underprivileged children around the world, but as it is not a registered charity it doesn't have to open its books and Ariste has consistently refused to identify where the money for its Stade investment has come from.

Ariste, who is an elder and secular deacon in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, merely claims that FACEM does business around the world and was hoping that any profits from its investment in Stade would be used to held fund further projects.

FACEM was originally approached by Laporte as he sought financial investors to rescue Stade's parlous situation, but French newspaper L'Equipe reported that the relationship is more than advisory. According to L'Equipe FACEM has a 51% stake in a corporation which was only created last month by Laporte.

The upshot of Guazzini filing for fraud means that Stade are now once more in the firing line of the DNACG - the French league's financial watchdog - as they are €5m in debt for the season which has just finished. Under normal circumstances that would almost certainly mean relegation to ProD2, although Montauban's example of two seasons ago could yet see them slip all the way down to Fédérale 1.

Read More...

 

Top 14 final: Bezy's late show finally ends the Montpellier fairytale

04 June 2011

Top 14 Transfer Special: Welsh star Mike Phillips signs for Bayonne

13 June 2011

 

Stade Toulouse youngster Nicolas Bezy
Match-winner:
 Nicolas Bézy

Photo: Eoin Mundow/
Cleva Media

Stade Toulousain 15 (3)
Montpellier 10
(7)
Stade de France, Paris

They left it late, not taking the lead until the 71st minute, but French giants Stade Toulousain eventually claimed their 18th national crown after downing brave Montpellier 15-10 in Paris on Saturday night.

For so long Fabien Galthié's Mediterranean underdogs appeared set to cause one of the biggest rugby upsets in recent French history, but 21-year-old Nicolas Bézy proved Toulouse's match-winner just in the nick of time as he calmly slotted two late penalties to secure the Bouclier de Brennus.

Up until Bézy's late intervention it appeared that starting fly-half David Skrela would mark his last match in Toulouse colours by frittering away his team's victory chances by missing with his five of his eight penalty attempts. But Skrela was eventually replaced by Bézy and the talented youngster showed nerves of steel as he landed the knockout blows that Toulouse's overall dominance had deserved.

If titles were won on heart alone then Montpellier - only formed in 1986 - may have been celebrating their inaugural French championship, but sport rarely deals with fairytale romance. Their defence was superb all night, led bombastically by their brave heart captain Fulgence Ouedraogo, who was playing despite a broken hand. They shackled the much-vaunted Toulouse back-line and showed a pickpocket's opportunism when Fijian winger Timoci Nagusa raced in for the game's first and only try just before the half hour mark.

The former Ulster player chipped over countryman Rupeni Caucaunibuca and then zoomed past Cédric Heymans to touch down under the posts for Argentine Martin Bustos Moyano to convert and leave the blue and white masses celebrating a 7-0 advantage.

Skrela, who had a night to forget on his farewell appearance for Toulouse, did at least get Guy Noves' side on the board with a penalty before the break, but the 1/5 favourites made too many mistakes - both out of foot and hand - as the prospects of a huge upset began to formulate.

Montpellier and France fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc edged his team further ahead with a neatly taken drop-goal soon after the resumption, and then it was all hands on deck as the underdogs attempted to defend their lead.

Skrela's continuing profligacy offered Montpellier further hope, but the Clermont-bound fly-half did at least land two more penalties as he narrowed the gap to just one point before departing in the 67th minute.

That left the stage clear for Bézy, and the precocious youngster duly stepped up to the plate with successful kicks in the 71st and 75th minutes, the latter while Montpellier were down to 14 men following the sin-binning of Benoit Paillaugue.

It was a cruelly late execution for Montpellier and their fans, but head coach Galthié later on spoke of this being the beginning rather than the end of the story. The former French international has surpassed all expectations by leading his team to this year's final, and he has done it primarily with a young side trying to play attacking rugby.

If they can go on from here and build on this experience - they will make their Heineken Cup debut next season - then Montpellier could yet emerge as a true force in French rugby. Toulouse head coach Guy Noves was fulsome in his praise of the vanquished after a gripping final, but few neutrals would deny that the south-west giants eventually deserved their 18th French title.

It may not have been achieved as they would have wished, but finals are for winning - by whatever means. This latest silverware will help dissipate the loss of their Heineken Cup crown, and as a full-stop to a tremendous season it was thoroughly deserved. Toulouse have been top of the pile since ascending the Top 14 summit in October, and this result was ample reward for a consistency that remains the envy of clubs throughout France and beyond.

They will be back again next year for another tilt at European glory as they seek to add to their record four titles, this time bolstered by the newly acquired playing skills of Luke McAlister, Luke Burgess and Lionel Beauxis. Frédéric Michalak may have departed, but the big red and black machine rumbles on.  

Read More...

Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips in action for the Ospreys
Basque glory? Mike Phillips
has signed for Bayonne
Photo: Michael Paler

Wales and Ospreys scrum-half Mike Phillips has signed to play for Top 14 side Bayonne.

The long-rumoured transfer appeared to stall last week due to Phillips' reported wage demands, but it now appears that common ground has been found and that the Welsh international has agreed a two-year deal with the option of another year.

Phillips' capture comes less than a week after Bayonne tore up the pre-contract agreement they had with former All Black Byron Kelleher - who has subsequently gone on to sign for Stade Francais.

Kelleher had initially committed to Bayonne while Bernard Laporte was working with the Basque club, but the latter's re-emergence at Stade Francais appeared to throw a spanner in the former Stade Toulousain's plans.

Read More...
 

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Ollie Phillips Column: Losing the plot, future uncertainty and Haskell's versatility

Tom May Exclusive: 'Playing with the likes of Tana, Jonny and Sonny Bill'

Paul Dearlove column: Get ready for another foreign invasion to Top 14

Delon Armitage: "I've always said I would like to play in France one day"

Top 14 semis: Montpellier in dreamland; Toulouse power through

Top 14: Bayonne sign Tialata, Lauaki and Chisholm to bolster their squad

Top 14, qf: Bustos-Moyano kicks history-makers Montpellier into semis

Top 14; qf: Clermont Auvergne rally from 17-3 down to see of Biarritz

News: Chabal to appeal; Armitage joins Toulon; Narbonne relegated

World Cup: France drop Chabal, Jauzion and Poitrenaud from squad

Top 14: Sackey and Hueber out as Toulon act; TV rights go for €158.5m

ProD2: Saint-André joins brother in Top 14 after Lyon clinch ProD2 title

News: France's Rougerie a major doubt for World Cup after injury

Top 14, r26: Toulon despair after crashing at Montpellier; Stade Toulouse confirm top spot

 

 

 

 
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