“The Force takes this matter very seriously and will seek further information from the company. The club will then review its sponsorship with Altrad accordingly.”
NZR told stuff.co.nz it was seeking an urgent meeting with Altrad’s representatives over the future of its $120 million naming rights partnership, while the Western Force were expected to follow suit.
“We have been in discussions on the possibility of this outcome for some time,” NZ Rugby said in a statement. “With the verdict against Mr Altrad personally now having been handed down, we will be reconvening with representatives from the company immediately – as well as with our key stakeholders.”
There will be further fallout as the global game digests Laporte’s conviction. One of the most powerful figures in international rugby, he has been at the epicentre of some of the sport’s most controversial recent moments.
In 2017, in his capacity as president of FFR, he pulled off a major upset to win France the hosting rights to the 2023 World Cup, after an independent technical evaluation named South Africa the preferred hosts. The tournament has been mired in controversy, with its local boss Claude Atcher sacked for presiding over a poor office culture. Atcher also stood trial on corruption charges as part of the prosecution’s case against Laporte and was fined $7800 for his role in the scandal.
Nevertheless, next year’s tournament is on track to deliver a financial bonanza to World Rugby, with tickets selling out this week. It is also expected to be one of the closest competitions fought in the history of the 35-year-old tournament.
Laporte was also key in the 2020 re-election of World Rugby president Bill Beaumont, ousting popular challenger Agustin Pichot in a campaign battle seen as the game’s progressives (Pichot) against the game’s traditionalists (Laporte and Beaumont), who wanted to preserve the status quo.
Rugby Australia had supported Pichot’s reform agenda, disappointed at Beaumont’s failure to deliver new global competition structures, but more recently worked closely with both Beaumont and Laporte to secure hosting rights to the 2027 World Cup and 2029 women’s World Cup.
Altrad and Laporte’s convictions related to a series of business dealings the pair undertook in 2017 and 2018, in which prosecutors successfully argued that Laporte had favoured Altrad in a number of key decisions in return for a $280,000 payment, which was withdrawn when revealed by media.
Laporte was under siege in France from the moment the verdict was handed down, his main rival on the FFR board describing it as an “earthquake” for the game.
“It’s unheard of in rugby, it’s an earthquake. We’ve never seen a federation president sentenced to two years in prison, even if it’s suspended. It’s shocking,” Laporte’s rival Florian Grill told AFP.
The French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra weighed in, saying the conviction “makes it difficult” for Laporte to continue with the FFR when France was preparing “receive nations from all over the world”.
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