Stade Francais and Racing 92 cancel merger plans
By SAMUEL PETREQUIN
PARIS (AP) Stade Francais and Racing 92 will not join forces to create a super rugby club in the Paris region after all.
Facing strong opposition from fans and players, both club presidents decided to scrap their planned merger.
Racing 92 President Jacky Lorenzetti said on Sunday on the club's website that he "gave up on the merger with the Stade Francais Paris, in agreement with Thomas Savare," the Stade Francais boss.
Their plan, which aimed to create a superclub of the best local talent in the Paris region capable of attracting the best foreign players, proved to be a hugely divisive move. It was welcomed by the French league but earned the disapproval of the French Rugby Federation while Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo expressed her concerns over the project, which was announced earlier this week and took most by surprise.
Savare said a merger was not possible without a consensus.
"I've heard the emotion, the surprise and the misunderstanding of fans, players and members of our association," he said. "I've also heard their deep bond to the Stade Francais Paris' independence, a bond that comes before all other considerations."
Earlier this week, representatives from both clubs met with League president Paul Goze and all parties, including some players and coaches, were set to meet again on Monday for further discussions. Goze was also expected to talk about the issue with French federation President Bernard Laporte on Monday.
Stade Francais players, who feared the merger would in fact end up in a takeover of their club, had announced they would go on strike in protest, and the league decided to postpone both clubs' weekend games "to give dialogue a chance."
"I have heard and understood the strong reservations that this beautiful project has raised," Lorenzetti wrote. "In any case, the social, political, cultural, human, and sporting conditions were not in place. Perhaps we were the right plan too soon, only the future will tell."
Racing 92 is the reigning French champion and both clubs play in the top-tier Top 14 championship. The teams won the inaugural French titles - Racing in 1892 and Stade Francais in 1893 - and have claimed 20 titles between them.
New Zealand great Dan Carter plays for Racing 92 and the flyhalf also helped the club reach the European Cup final last season, where it lost to English side Saracens.
Updated March 19, 2017