The French Rugby Federation (FFR) has been told to pay €150,000 (£125,000/$170,000) in compensation to the contractor it appointed to deliver its aborted ‘Grand Stade’ project, but a court has ruled it is not liable for a significantly higher financial penalty.
The judicial court of Évry (Essonne) yesterday (Thursday) ruled that the FFR unfairly terminated its contract with Ibelys, a consortium of four companies that was due to manage the development of the project.
In December 2016, the FFR scrapped the proposed project to build a new national stadium on the outskirts of Paris, choosing instead to focus on a new deal to play at the Stade de France. The governing body of rugby union in France had been working on the project since 2010, but ending the Grand Stade in Ris-Orangis was one of FFR president Bernard Laporte’s pledges when he was elected.
Laporte was elected as FFR president earlier in December 2016 and the decision to pull the plug on the €581m project was announced following confirmation that he would take control. The FFR selected a group featuring Populous and Ateliers 2/3/4 to design the proposed 82,000-seat venue back in February 2013 and it had been hoped that the stadium would open in 2023.
Ibelys launched legal action following the FFR’s decision to pull the plug on the project and had been seeking compensation of €16,389,873. The court ruled that the FFR had “not terminated the contract on a regular basis”, but stated that the federation was only liable for €150,000 in damages as the decision was made when the project was in the second of four phases.
Signed in July 2016, when the late Pierre Camou was still president, the contract outlined the four phases of zero for preparatory work, one to obtain building permits, two for the development of the stadium, and the final one for its opening and operations.
The FFR had maintained it was within its right not to enter phase two, with the court backing this up while adding that the issue was that the contract was terminated whilst phase one was still in progress.
The ruling read, according to French newspaper L’Équipe: “The fault of the FFR therefore does not consist in having broken the contract before its term, but in having broken it during phase one rather than after its completion.”
The Ibelys ruling is the second legal case connected to the Grand Stade. In July 2020, the administrative court of Versailles ruled the FFR should pay more than €3m to the Grand Paris Sud Seine-Essonne-Sénart urban community and the commune of Ris-Orangis for the collapse of the project. The FFR appealed against this verdict.
In July 2018, the FFR agreed a new deal with the Stade de France Consortium (CSDF) to stage games at the Parisian venue. Under a tripartite agreement between the CSDF, FFR and French Rugby League (LNR), the 80,698-seat stadium is due to host national team games and the finals of the domestic Top 14 league until 2025.
Image: Populous/Ateliers 2/3/4