Rugby: World Cup boss suspended by French sports minister

Claude Atcher's suspension comes just over a year before the tournament kicks off in Paris. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - The chief executive of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Claude Atcher, was suspended on Monday (Aug 29) by French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera as a preliminary investigation into his management style found evidence of a "deep social malaise" within the organisation.

"Atcher will no longer be present or active, directly or indirectly, within, in the name of and on behalf of the GIP (organising committee) during the period of layoff," the ministry said in a statement.

A definitive decision will be delivered at a later date.

Atcher's suspension, which comes just over a year before the tournament kicks off in Paris, was prompted by the preliminary findings of a Labour Inspectorate investigation which was launched at the end of June after an article in sports daily L'Equipe accused him of "management by terror".

A report by the ethics committee had accused the 66-year-old of "alarming managerial practices altering the functioning of the structure and the suffering of a certain number of employees".

In the article in L'Equipe, several former and current employees, speaking on condition of anonymity, spoke out about the "management by terror" set up by Atcher and his chief of staff within the organisation.

World Rugby, the sport's international governing body, issued a statement admitting it was "deeply concerned" by the allegations.

"The well-being of the rugby family is paramount and central to the values of unity, inclusion and togetherness that embody the World Cup," added World Rugby, which stressed its desire to work with the organising committee "to deliver together an exceptional Rugby World Cup in France".

Atcher's deputy, Julien Collette, will be installed as his provisional replacement at an emergency board meeting on Friday.

The Rugby World Cup kicks off on Sept 8 next year with hosts France playing New Zealand at the Stade de France, which will also be the venue for the final on Oct 28.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.