France's sports minister has ordered an investigation into allegations of favouritism against FFR president Bernard Laporte that have now prompted six members of union's influential appeals board to resign and rocked the corridors of French rugby power.
Minister Laura Flessel, an Olympic gold medal-winning fencer-turned-politician, told French sports newspaper L'Equipe she decided to hand the matter to ministry inspectors after reviewing documents sent to her office by the embattled head of French rugby.
"This is a classic procedure," she said. "I want to be clear: my role is not to judge this case but to ensure the facts are clearly and transparently presented."
She said that the documents raised questions that demanded answers and other matters that needed clarification.
Laporte, who has this week rejected calls for his resignation, denies that he used his influence to persuade the FFR's appeals board to reduce or overturn sanctions against Top 14 giants Montpellier -- the club owned by billionaire Mohed Altrad.
Altrad's construction company became the first shirt sponsor of the French national teams earlier this year and is a partner in France's bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and he admitted to having spoken to the board's chairman, but said it was only only to offer 'political perspective' on the matter.
The conflict-of-interests scandal erupted after it emerged that a company owned by Laporte, BL Communications, had previously signed a €150,000 consultancy agreement with the Altrad Group, which would have seen the FFR president host a series of lectures to senior employees.
The revelations, first published in weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche, have led to the resignations of several members of the appeals board -- and forced Laporte to walk away from the lucrative consultancy deal.
The FFR, which had previously voiced its support of its controversial president, has welcomed the investigation.
"This case, which has suffered for several days from misleading and misleading interpretations, will find in the General Inspectorate an impartial judge who will respect the independence of the Appeal Board," it said in a statement.
It said all documents and minutes of meetings relevant to the investigation will be made available to the inquiry team. It seems certain that the investigation and its fallout is part of a wider-ranging reforms of public affairs in France.
New laws were passed earlier in the summer intended to clean up politics, and Flessel told L'Equipe: "By the end of the year, the presidents of all [sports] federations will have to make declarations of interests and heritage to the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life, like all elected representatives."