A swirling wind blows over the Hérault. In Montpellier, the big manoeuvres have begun and it's flying in all directions. In the wake of the defeat in Perpignan (23-16) on Saturday, which precipitated the club to last place in the Top 14, Mohed Altrad, the billionaire owner, broke his wallet.
He hired Bernard Laporte, former president of the French Federation who was forced to resign last January after being sentenced at first instance on December 13, 2022 to a two-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 75,000 euros by the Paris Criminal Court, for having entered into a "corruption pact" with... Mohed Altrad, himself sentenced to 18 months in prison with a suspended sentence and a fine of 50,0000 euros.
Their association may come as a surprise, even though both men have appealed. Gone are the coaches Richard Cockerill and Jean-Baptise Elissalde, Bernard Laporte, who has become director of rugby, has recruited "in three hours" according to his own words big names such as manager Patrice Collazo and coach Vincent Etcheto, who will be supported by Christian Labit and Antoine Battut.
"We wonder how they are going to pay severance pay and the salaries of all these managers," said a president of a Top 14 club. But it's Montpellier. We used to say that in the Top 14, we were 13 friends plus Montpellier. Since their sanction on the salary cap (Editor's note: 3 million euros in August 2020 for exceeding the salary cap ceiling), they no longer participate in the institutions of the LNR. »
The president of the National League, who presented his 2023-2027 strategic plan on Monday, found nothing to complain about. "For me, it's very good," said René Bouscatel. This is a choice that has been made by the MHR. It's very good that someone of Bernard Laporte's skill and experience is coming to the club. I wish him the best of luck and good work. »
Jean-Marc Lhermet, the vice-president of the French federation in charge of high-level football, has also maintained a certain detachment. "These are two men who have been convicted but have appealed," he said. Justice presumes them innocent. At the moral level, everyone has their own opinion, but at the legal level, this is not a problem. »