Stade sale begins as club await new owner
Stade Francais turned the winning of the first European trophy in their history into a farewell party for some of their greatest heroes. Their Challenge Cup victory over Gloucester was not yet a swansong – the prize of a place in the more prestigious Champions Cup next season is still on offer if they can beat Cardiff on Friday.
And go on to victory over the winners of a Northampton SaintsConnaught play-off in a fortnight.
But, even if Stade achieve that goal, they will be having to toast absent friends when those big games come around next autumn.
For a start, centre Geoffrey Doumayrou, whose breathtaking individual try sealed the win for Stade, will be starting a three-year contract with La Rochelle alongside his co-centre Jeremy Sinzelle, who came on as substitute for another of Stade’s try-scorers, Jonathan Dante.
Toulon are another top club to pounce on players whom Stade, with their eyes on a wonky balance sheet, were only too willing to let go.
Full-back Hugo Bonneval, who served up Dante’s try, and flanker Raphael Lakafia, a sub for fellow France international Antoine Burban, have signed to go there.
Rabat Slimani, a huge influence on the result at tight-head prop, will be in the colours of Clermont and South African No.8 Jono Ross, the man of the match for many, will be turning out for Sale Sharks.
Add uncertainty over the future of captain Sergio Parisse, who scored Stade’s opening try, and a bitter-sweet refrain can be heard behind the scenes.
Nothing, it appears, can alter that scenario in the choice owner Thomas Savare will make between four bids to buy the club from him. Unless the successful group is the one fronted by former Stade stars Christophe Dominici, Thomas Lombard, Sylvain Marconnet and Mathieu Blin and backed by investors with no more than a 15 per cent stake each.
Dominici says: “All the players leaving have signed pre-contracts which can be bought back.” That would be more in hope than expectation, one feels.
Former Stade sports director and player Richard Poole-Jones heads another consortium and Qatari Sports Investments, owners of football club Paris St. Germain, have also tabled a bid.
Their interest, incidentally, is what Racing president Jacky Lorenzetti claims to have sparked his failed move to merge with derby rivals Stade in the first place.
Favourite to win the day, though, remains German billionnaire HansPeter Wild whose closest sporting advisor is Robert Mohr, a 38-year-old compatriot who played in the back row for La Rochelle for a decade.
Mohr says: “We have to make our offer before Mr Savare goes before the DNACG ( the financial watchdog) on Thursday morning, so we will be doing it very quickly.
“We are aware it will be some challenge next season with numerous departures from the club already signed.There are three things we have to be convincing about. First of all, finance, which is solid. When Dr Wild gets involved, things are serious and for the long term.
“Then there are Stade’s values and identity. They won’t be playing in the colours of Capri Sun (Wild’s soft drink) but in pink.
“And third we are convinced of Stade’s immense potential. Dr. Wild is
“Favourite to win the day, though, remains German billionnaire Hans-Peter Wild, purveyor of Capri Sun”
not buying himself a club to talk to the Press every day and recruit some All Black world champions.
“We will be working on developing youngsters, keeping those formed at the club and adding one or two top players. It is reassuring to see former Stade players mobilised. We would like to have such emblematic figures behind us.”
One of those may yet be Pascal Pape, whose red card for slinging a punch in the most recent derby with Racing deprived him of a game in the final with Gloucester.
Pape, banned for three weeks, may yet get the chance of an emotional farewell on his playing retirement in the final qualifier for the Champions Cup on May 26 if the team can get him there. One man who will definitely be missing is Argentine team boss Gonzalo Quesada, whose new team Biarritz are involved in the play-offs for promotion to the Top 14.
He will be hoping all of his future players can remain on the field when they meet fierce rivals Agen this afternoon. And with good reason.
When Biarritz lost by one point at Agen last September, there were three red cards and four yellows issued. During the return encounter, which Biarritz won by three points in January, two men were sent off and four were booked.
All five reds were handed out to players swinging punches in displays of violence which do not augur well for today’s confrontation.
The team who come out on top will face the winners of the other play-off between Montauban and Mont de Marsan tonight for the right to be promoted along with Division Two champions Oyonnax.
Leaving Paris: Jono Ross is joining Sale Sharks
New Zealand international Luke McAlister will join Toulon next season.
The 33-year-old former Blues fly-half will join on a one-year deal from Toulouse with an option for a second season.
McAlister spent six seasons with Toulouse after spells with Auckland Blues and Sale Sharks.