Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Tyrone Howe: Stade just cannot go on living beyond their means

Poor old Max Guazzini. The perma-tanned grand fromage of Stade Francais must be scratching his head at what he has done in a previous life to deserve the treatment dished out to his team in recent months.

First of all, he lost players David Attoub and Julien Dupuy to lengthy bans for eye-gouging. Then, during the Six Nations, he lost the war in the James Haskell affair with the English player not being returned for domestic league duty. Stade went on to lose the match against their great French rivals, Toulouse, by 29 points, so he would have made little difference anyway.

In all of this Guazzini was convinced that there was an anti-French conspiracy being waged against his club.

What will he say now that his club are being investigated by the French financial watchdog? There must be an Englishman or Ulsterman in charge!

It is incredible that such a flamboyant professional set-up, that manages to fill the Stade de France for top league games, can record operating losses of €2.5 million. It shows the pressure that the backers of French domestic rugby are under in order to compete.

It also does not necessarily guarantee success. Big money signings make headlines but in the heat of battle how much does that paycheck count for?

This is where Toulouse still have something that little bit special — they, too, possess the funds but they also have a culture, ethos and club history that players buy into.

While Stade are struggling to make it into the top six in the Top 14, which would guarantee Heineken Cup rugby next season, their best hopes for success this season may well depend on this very same competition.

Their mouth-watering quarterfinal clash next weekend away to Toulouse may well be one the aristocratic Parisians cannot afford to lose.