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Good article on the Catalan Dragons and French RL



A nice article about the Catalan Dragons which gives also a good introduction to French RL:


Enter the Dragons
By Huw Richards

Published: June 8 2007 17:58 | Last updated: June 8 2007 17:58

Perpignan, on France’s Mediterranean coast, to Wembley in London via Hull, on England’s east coast, might seem eccentric but, if it works as the Catalan Dragons hope, they won’t complain. French rugby league is in no position to be fussy.

The Dragons â€" the latest, and perhaps last hope of the game in France â€" visit Hull on Sunday in the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup, English rugby league’s most popular and venerable trophy. Victory would leave them 80 minutes from history â€" the first final at Wembley since 1999 while the stadium has been rebuilt, and the first French finalists.

They are playing in England’s domestic competitions, not just the Challenge Cup but its Super League, because of the sport’s determination to spread the game as much as possible. It also shows how much reviving France matters to the 13-a-side code. Only in the north of England, the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland, Papua New Guinea and a few New Zealand districts can league claim the ascendancy over its more widespread 15-a-side competitor, rugby union.

French league was not always an invalid. In the late 1930s, it looked to the alarmed French Rugby (union) Federation like an unstoppable force, growing in five years from a schism in the union game in 1934 to have almost as many affiliated clubs, comparable big-match crowds and better international results. In the early 1950s, a golden generation, symbolised by full-back Puig Aubert, matched the best in the world.

In between came war, occupation and theVichy regime. In 1941, league was suppressed under an order signed by 1920s tennis star Jean Borotra and ruthlessly enforced by his successor as Vichy’s sports minister, former union international Jep Pascot. League never regained assets seized during the war and took half a century to be allowed to call itself “rugby†again.

Hopes of at least symbolic restitution were dashed in 2002 when a report commissioned by former sports minister Marie-Georges Buffet was shelved pre-publication by her rightwing successor. While newpresident Nicolas Sarkozy has no reason to cherish France’s rugby-playing districts, which preferred his opponent Ségolène Royal, he will not upset rugby union just before it hosts this autumn’s world cup.

“He has said he is not concerned with old divisions but only with the future,†says league historian and activist Robert Fassollette.

French league’s struggle is to ensure it has a future. Fassollette denies there is “a battle†with union but not because relations are friendly. “A battle is a conflict with some equality of resources. But we have nothing, while they are extremely powerful.â€

League’s last attempt to relaunch via a Super League presence, the Paris St Germain club of the late 1990s, was short-lived and unsuccessful. It was ill thought out, rootless and hopelessly isolated from league’s southern heartlands, but Fassollette suggests that union influence over French business played its part. “They were in Paris and had the PSG brand but could never attract a sponsor.â€

Dragons, now in their second season, are in the heartlands and rooted in older clubs. They play up regional as well as national identity. “We play the Catalan anthem at every game. We are proud of our identity â€" much closer to Barcelona than Paris,†says club general manager Christophe Lévy.

The aim, though, says Lévy, is the same: “To make it possible for Frenchmen to play professional league in France.†Veteran player Jerome Guisset’s wonderful accent â€" Sydneyside French with a touch of Warrington â€" testifies to the effort it previously took.

In their first season, they were forced into an uneasy groundshare with Perpignan’s union club and key player Stacey Jones was injured early. This meant the Dragons had to make use of their immunity from relegation for three years.

Season two has been better. They are established in their own, refurbished Gilbert Brutus stadium. Crowds are up from 6,000 to 8,000 and a bilingual squad â€" Lévy makes everyone take classes â€" of 17 Frenchmen and eight, mostly Australian, imports is proving more competitive. While only three points off the bottom, they are also only four behind the team in fourth place. Hull are one place above them.

“Win two in a row, you are in the play-offs, lose two you are in trouble,†says Lévy. They have been injury-hit again, missing nine players on occasion. “So we have to give young French players more experience â€" we had an all-French pack against Bradford last week,†says Lévy.

They are established locally, with copious media coverage and business support. “Visiting teams from Britain bring an average of 1,500 fans. They stay for two or three days and spend a lot of money. Rugby union fans come for the match, then go home,†says Lévy.

Getting noticed by national media, such as sports newspaper L’Equipe, is tougher. This is where the Challenge Cup comes in.

As Lévy says: “It is every rugby league player’s dream to play at Wembley. But it is more important for media and publiciy. If we get to a final at Wembley, they have to take notice of us.â€

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
treize interresante :D

it'd be great to see a French team play at Wembley, would definitely give them a boost
treize interresante :D

it'd be great to see a French team play at Wembley, would definitely give them a boost


I don't know, they receive very small attention from the national media for the time being. They may capture some interest and on the longer run they may report the SL results.
their games are televised though on canal + aren't they? how much do they get in L'Equipe? I don't think Midi Olympique covers them, at least the last time I checked.
Fair play to Les Cats - they have made massive progress over the winter and it's great to see them doing well, it's great for the sport. I hope they make it to the final unless they draw Saints tomorrow, of course.
their games are televised though on canal + aren't they? how much do they get in L'Equipe? I don't think Midi Olympique covers them, at least the last time I checked. [/b]

L'Equipe doesn't cover Rugby League properly, less than 1/8th of a page on the Monday issue.

Midi Olympique dedicates one or two pages to Rugby League. They resumed covering Rugby League a couple of years ago.

Sport+ broadcasts the Catalan matchs but this is not a FTA channel.

None of the sport news magazines on the French TV cover RL.
their games are televised though on canal + [/b]

It' on Sport+ actually. This sport channel belongs to the Canal+ group but is not over the air only cable or satellite TV which are not as spread the hertzian reception digital or analogue.
Since the introduction on the Catalans Ive probably watched more Rugby League and always watch their games on sky sports.
Must mention that Huw Richards is a fantastic rugby correspondent and I urge and rugby nut to read his book!

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