The Rugby World Cup, scheduled in France in the fall of 2023, will take place with or without its general manager, Claude Atcher? In turmoil for several months following an investigation by the daily L’Équipe into his managerial practices, he was suspended from his duties on Monday as a precaution.
The 2023 Rugby World Cup is pitching: its general manager, Claude Atcher, was laid off on Monday August 29, just over a year before the start of the competition (September 8-October 28, 2023) . The decision was adopted by the Ministry of Sports, “as a precaution” and “with immediate effect”, which explains, in a press release, having reacted to a report by the ethics committee of the Public Interest Group (GIP) Rugby 2023 reporting “alarming managerial practices”.
At the end of June, a labor inspection investigation was launched after an article in the sports daily L’Équipe detailing a “deep social malaise” within the GIP France-2023 led by Claude Atcher since May 2018. The daily had collected a fifteen testimonials from employees who denounced “management by terror” and a very degraded social climate within this structure of around 70 people.
In question, according to the report submitted to the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, “alarming managerial practices altering the functioning of the structure” and “the state of suffering of a certain number of collaborators”.
The Ministry of Sports has therefore decided to lay off Claude Atcher “as a precaution with immediate effect, for the time necessary to close the investigation currently being carried out by the labor inspectorate”. He will be temporarily replaced in his functions by the deputy director general of the GIP, Julien Collette.
World Rugby’s “deep concern”
This decision was taken in concert with the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and the French Olympic Committee (CNOSF), the two other shareholders of the organizing committee of the Mondial-2023.
The Federation “is fully associated with the action plan decided today in consultation with the Ministry of Sports and the President of GIP France-2023, Jacques Rivoal”.
“The deep values of rugby call for perfect vigilance as to their respect. The Federation has based its action on the protection of all its populations, employees are obviously part of its priorities”, explained the FFR to AFP.
“The decision is taken as a precautionary measure pending receipt of the conclusions of the Labor Inspectorate, which will prescribe the action to be taken, each person having the opportunity to defend their rights. The FFR will convene an extraordinary Board of Directors of the GIP to ratify this decision within the week”, continued the body.
For its part, World Rugby, the governing body of world rugby, told AFP that it “fully endorses the conclusions and the action plan communicated by the French Ministry of Sports today on the subject of the social climate within the France-2023 organizing committee”.
“World Rugby is deeply concerned by the allegations presented in the French media. The wellbeing of the rugby family is paramount and central to the values of unity, inclusion and togetherness that embody the World Cup,” added World Rugby, assuring its desire to “continue to provide its support and expertise to the France-2023 Organizing Committee in order to deliver together an exceptional Rugby World Cup in France”.
Claude Atcher sued in another file
The press release from the Ministry of Sports adds that a second investigation has been opened: “A joint mission of the General Inspectorate of Finance and the General Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research has been triggered by the State to, on the one hand, analyze the existence of possible breaches of economic and financial probity or conflicts of interest and, on the other hand, support the GIP in the organization of some of its strategic programs”.
This second investigation also follows information revealed by L’Équipe in July 2022 according to which the director of the GIP would have imposed undue VTC costs on the structure. In a rare interview, Claude Atcher had responded in the columns of the Journal du Dimanche to the accusations made against him, stating in particular that there have never been any internal alerts about social unrest.
The former third line will also be judged from September 7 with the president of the FFR Bernard Laporte and the boss of the Montpellier club Mohed Altrad in the context of suspicions of favoritism around the sponsorship of the XV of France. He will appear for “concealment of breach of trust”, “abuse of corporate assets” and “concealed work by concealment of activity”.