Bayonne boss open to Top14 merger with Biarritz

Bayonne president Alain Afflelou has said that he is open to the idea of a
merger with fellow Basque Top 14 side Biarritz ahead of next season.

Afflelou, who was once the major shareholder of Bordeaux Football Club before
falling out of love with the sport and turning his attention to rugby, said
that it made little financial sense for the two clubs to remain separate in
a sport that was increasingly about money.

Afflelou was speaking after both clubs announced earlier on Wednesday that
they were examining the conditions of a possible merger — though it would only
be at the professional level as their youth programmes would be kept separate.

Both Bayonne and Biarritz are struggling this season and in danger of relegation,
which would be a particular disaster for the latter, winners of successive French
titles in 2005 and 2006 and European Cup finalists in 2006 and most recently
in 2010.

However, they have been unable to match the spending power of clubs like Toulon
and Racing-Metro and, with players such as Dimitri Yachvili and Imanol Harinordoquy
ageing and not being adequately replaced, their results have suffered accordingly.

Bayonne are second from bottom on 25 points after 13 matches while Biarritz
are bottom eight points adrift of them.

“Today in professional rugby one has to have lots of money at one’s disposal,”
Afflelou told French radio station RMC.

“We have two clubs, with two stadia three kilometres part as the crow
flies… It is a little idiotic not to try and see if there isn’t a simpler
solution.”

Afflelou, who remarked there was no question of either club losing their identity,
admitted that he and his Biarritz counterpart Serge Blanco had initially been
opposed to the idea, but that had now changed.

“That was until three or four months ago. However, then we said we will
not die a pair of idiots knowing we tried to do something intelligent to resolve
the situation, given the amount of other people crying out for something such
as this to be done.”

Blanco, who was sitting alongside Afflelou, said there was no reason why the
clubs could not be a single competitive outfit by next season.

“Why not? After studying the matter and then discussing what comes out
of the study anything can happen, though one shouldn’t rush things.”

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