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So You Think You Know About French Rugby? (Part III)
Posted by southstander on April 12 2005 - 08:10:34

No Friend to League
by Rob Peat

As well as welcoming Pia to Headingley next month, we’re off to Perpignan this year to play London, and from next year we’ll have the pleasure of annual fixtures against the Frenchman, but how much do you know about the game in France?

Over the next few weeks Puig-Aubert will try to enlighten us and in his third instalment, he talks about the influence of the Nazis.

Chapter 3 - Dissolution & Disgrace

Dissolution & Disgrace

The incompetence of France’s union administrators (FFR) and their establishment cronies only managed to hasten rugby league’s rapid rise toward dominance in 1930s France but the malicious intent remained and any opportunity to hinder or destroy the treizistes would be taken.

Such an opportunity arose as a direct result of France’s defeat by Hitler’s Germany in 1940 and the actions taken remain one of the most shameful episodes in any sport’s history.

When France was defeated many from the right of French politics went into eager collaboration with their Nazi overlords, setting up a puppet government in the spa town of Vichy. Naturally this contained many 'establishment’ friends of the beleagured FFR – the perfect opportunity to destroy league.

Nazi Puppets

Under the pretence that professional sport was damaging to the moral fibre of the nation the Vichy government produced a decree of 19th December 1941 that dissolved the French Rugby League, confiscated their property, grounds and assets.

All other professional sports such as cycling and football were ignored and naturally Union’s own shamateurism was overlooked. Moreover, the playing of rugby league in itself was outlawed – whether professional or amateur. Rugby league was made illegal!

Throughout the war treizistes played covert matches and many of the game’s players were active in the French resistance, many sadly losing their lives.

Their sacrifice was not in vain and in 1944 France was liberated, but could league possibly re-establish itself? Surely a new government would look unkindly on the FFR and the actions taken seemingly on their behalf?

Read Chapter 1 - Puig-Aubert here...

Read Chapter 2 - The Beginnings here...

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