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French rugby president Laporte resigns under cloud

(FILES) This file photo taken on September 7, 2022 shows French Rugy Federation President Bernard Laporte (C), flanked by French lawyers Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi (L) and Fanny Colin (R) arriving at the Batignolles Court prior to the opening of their trial for suspicion of corruption and influence in Paris. - French prosecutors on September 20, 2022 demanded prison time for Bernard Laporte, a towering figure in French rugby, for corruption and influence-peddling in a high-profile trial making waves only a year before France hosts the World Cup. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

French rugby was thrown into further turmoil just over seven month before the World Cup as Bernard Laporte resigned as president of the French rugby federation (FFR) amid legal trouble.

"I can confirm Bernard Laporte's resignation. I welcome this decision... which is a good thing for French rugby, for its values and for the future," sports minister Amelie Oudea Castera told reporters.

Laporte stepped aside last month after being convicted of influence peddling and illegally acquiring assets, also resigning from his job as vice-president of World Rugby.

Police questioned him on Tuesday about allegations of additional financial wrongdoing, which he denied.

The 58-year-old had given up his role as FFR president, meaning he could not take part in board meetings or sign official documents, after being convicted in mid-December, and suggested a temporary replacement in Patrick Buisson.

His proposal, however, was rejected on Thursday by the clubs' presidents, who were asked by the federation to validate, or reject Laporte's choice.

The members of Laporte's opponents at the board of directors all resigned on Friday to trigger new elections.

France hosts the World Cup from Sept. 8 to Oct. 28.

Last October, Claude Atcher, the chief executive officer of the 2023 rugby World Cup in France, was sacked after a report by the French Labour Inspectorate found that he oversaw an "extremely degraded social environment" at the organising committee.

A month later, French financial prosecutors (PNF) searched the headquarters of 'France 2023' as part of a preliminary investigation into the management of the rugby World Cup organising committee.

Laporte's resignation is the latest episode in a series of top management woes in French sports after the head of the handball league was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence for corruption of a minor and recording of child pornography images.

Earlier this month, French prosecutors said they were investigating sexual harassment allegations against French soccer federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet. Le Graet denies the charges but opted to step aside.

- Reuters