How French rugby league clubs are trying to raise awareness amid union dominance – Total Rugby League

Raising awareness of rugby league in France is an uphill battle due to a lack of funding, but clubs can still use their creativity to overcome some of the obstacles in their way.

“STOP complaining, just act!”

This is the accusation that Treizistes is sometimes made in France.

Treizistes are said to be prisoners of the past. They would think about history; about the banning of the code by the Vichy regime, and to twist a phrase from the late Dave Hadfield, about the “dirty tricks” (see RLW issue 411, July 2015) of the French Rugby Federation to prevent rugby from XIII gets the title back. attention of the public.

Okay, then for the sake of argument, let’s remember that the Vichy ban was just an aberration and that the union-league competition was governed by a set of fair rules of engagement, monitored by neutral authorities.

But where should French rugby league clubs start?

Communication, that’s for sure! Remember, millions of my fellow countrymen simply don’t know that there is a rugby league in France.

And where you can get the best tips on how to change that these days, if not at the headquarters of the most successful French club.

Yannick Rey, the communications officer at Catalans Dragons, accepted to answer my questions and what he told me could be considered the golden rules of communication for French clubs.

“First of all, you have to allocate a real budget to your communication. To purchase equipment and hire staff. In France, for example, apprenticeship contracts are common, this is a way to recruit at a lower cost.

“Secondly, our raw materials are video content and images; you can’t skip such important things as match highlights and post-match interviews. You need to publish things like the image of a great effort or a spectacular, well-executed tackle. We are fortunate that we have a telegenic sport, we can easily attract the attention of newcomers. Clubs must respond to this.”

Rey also praised the interest of digital communications and social networks.

“The big advantage of digital communication is that it gives clubs back the power over their communication; they remain in charge of their communications. There is no point in waiting for the interest of a traditional medium, even though classical media is still part of the story and should not be neglected.

“There is another advantage to social networks; a well-thought-out campaign can be cheap, but also very effective.”

But Rey also sets a clear priority for French clubs: “Clubs must set a goal! Are families being targeted? Or are they young people? In the past, our target group was families. For example, we placed advertisements in the local press, showed commercials in cinemas, adapted our ticket policy to families and even offered entertainment for children at Gibert Brutus.

“Since then, we have focused on young people (ages between 15-25 years), we have focused on social networks, we have adapted the animations accordingly, meanwhile we have kept the animations for children, but we have created fan zones with a DJ.”

It’s interesting to note that even if some French clubs don’t tick every box, they are already unknowingly applying some of Rey’s principles.

Elite 1 club Albi, for example, does not have a clear communication goal. Their purpose is more fundamental. They are located in an area, Tarn, which is ideally located in France. An hour’s drive from Toulouse, two hours’ drive from the Mediterranean coast. But it is more of a union territory (especially with the union club Castres Olympique), despite the fact that the Albi Rugby League was French champions five times and still has the record attendance for a rugby match in the city (all codes combined); an attendance of 18,235 for the grand final of the Carcassonne-Albi championship in 1977.

Nicolas Delpoux, the club’s volunteer communications officer, acknowledges this: “We want the local public to talk about rugby league and our club, as rugby league suffers from a lack of recognition.”

And social networks are the club’s playing field, as Rey would recommend.

“We offer daily news, match announcements, results, interviews, match reports on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.”

For this purpose, Albi Tigers put together a team consisting of the aforementioned volunteer Marie Montels, two cameramen (Pierre Ducos and Pierre Lissillour), Eric Tarroux and Stéphane Revello who provide the interviews and commentaries on the games. However, they do not neglect their relationships with local media such as la Dépêche du Midi and le Tarn Libre and have entered into relationships with the local TV channel Tarn TV.

But interestingly, their activity has also attracted a foreign audience: British and Australians have found their broadcasts on YouTube and keep asking where they can buy the club’s shirt!

An international interest that did not go unnoticed by Delpoux and his colleagues: “We were even asked to broadcast our matches with commentary in English, but for this we need some help from our English supporters. If anyone is interested, we are willing to discuss it!”

If you would like to contact the club, please email: [email protected]

Unexpectedly, Elite 1 clubs are not the only ones taking their own communications seriously.

Do you know Ariège? That southern, sparsely populated area on the French-Andorran border? Probably not, but still this could be considered a stronghold of rugby league, especially the Pamiers club who played at a high level in the past, giving the Chanticleers such great players as Jacques Moliner, Marc Tissyerre, Pierre Gonzales etc.

Currently the club, called Pamiers-Vernajoul, only plays against Nationale (the 3rd division). Yet it is probably the first club in its category to broadcast its matches in a professional manner, as they have a deal with a local TV channel, 09 TV. Although Pamiers were absolute beginners in TV, they are now supported by a team of professionals; Franck Macakanja (president of the channel founded in 2016 and based in Montels, not far from Foix, the capital of Ariège) and Patrick Anné.

Edouard Laguerre, manager of the Pamiers club, who took on the role of caller for the first match, confessed: “It was a bit stressful debut for me as a commentator, but everything went well and I enjoyed my time and I I’m ready for the next broadcast!”

And it was a success, as the club received very positive reactions from the public.

Franck Macakanja even told me: “In two days, the first game was viewed more than 4,000 times on YouTube and Facebook. This is more than, for example, for the matches of the local trade union clubs.”

Laguerre advises French clubs to follow Pamiers-Vernajoul experience, even if he recognizes the problems in terms of costs: “Of course we advise the other clubs to contact the local video media; it is crucial that the French rugby league is known. However, these broadcasts are not free and therefore not all clubs can afford them.”

As usual, what can be achieved comes down to money, or the lack thereof.

Travelers can complain, in some cases quite rightly, but they will take action where possible.

As a Treiziste, I understand that more money is needed to raise awareness of the sport through more effective communication, but as a French citizen I wonder why the French rugby league always has to start from scratch, even at local level?

First published in Rugby League World magazine, issue 495 (April 2024)

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