Your goal was to referee the final phase of the Top 14. Did it disappoint you?
No, I lived it as a consecration. I was one of the two referees chosen to make a professional final. It is true that it is the Pro D2, obviously all the referees and competitors want the best, that the Top 14 was a goal. But the Pro D2, it’s a real honor to have done so. To choose between a Top 14 dam and the Pro D2 final, there is no comparison. There is no disappointment, on the contrary.
You refereed your last Top 14 match in Toulon against Pau (37-20, May 21). The rugby world remembers the violent criticism of Bernard Laporte and Mourad Boudjellal, then manager and president of the RCT, in 2014. The goal was to end Mayol?
I had it in mind for a long time, I knew where I wanted to play my last league game. I had to close this book, although in quotes off-camera, the reconciliations had already been done. But he wanted me to pass in front of the cameras.
As a way to close the loop?
Yes, so everyone understands that the book was closed. It was inaugurated in 2014, in this famous match Toulon – Grenoble where Toulon lost in a last situation. It was the great Toulon with the Bakkies Botha, Jonny Wilkinson, a huge team that was not working well at the time. Grenoble was a lower team, coached by Fabrice Landreau. This Grenoble victory had set fire to gunpowder and Bernard Laporte and Mourad Boudjellal had overreacted. They went after me going beyond the referee, they went after the man. It had bothered me, it had appeared in the press, on RMC’s “Moscato Show” … But a few months later, we had lunch together, it was over. Even Mourad told me “Laurent, it is thanks to this defeat that we are on the eve of two finals”. He almost said it was thanks to me (laughs).
“Pipasse”, “null”, “incompetent”, were insulting comments …
I didn’t live them well. At the time, he was not a semi-professional, working for Renault in Marseille. I had managed to isolate myself and cut myself off from this outburst. I told myself he wasn’t the best referee in the world, but he was the best known! And that’s what we remember, finally (laughs). It was a real crisis and I had to find opportunities to be known and recognized. At a time when Mourad Boudjellal was very present in the press and criticized, he said “as long as people talk about me, for better or worse, they talk about me”, I loved this little maxim. In the end, I got more positive than negative things. People used to tell me about it on the street, in the stadiums …
“Laurent, it is thanks to this defeat that we are on the eve of two finals.” He almost said it was thanks to me.
FFR President Bernard Laporte responded to your invitation to Toulon. He gave you a blowjob, a friendly wink …
I wanted Mourad and Bernard to be there, but Mourad was abroad. He made me a little video, congratulated me on my career and told me again that thanks to me they had been double European and Top 14 champions. Bernard came into the locker room and gave me this little symbolic gift. . To tell you the truth, this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to mark the thing (smile). But I didn’t dare, he’s the president of the Federation (on which the referees depend, ed.) … And he was the one who did it, I thought it was a lot of fun. I think the Toulon episode will be remembered. Now people keep telling me about this blowjob. I’ll put it in the souvenir box (smile)!
How do you see your 14 seasons at the highest level?
I’m proud, because I wasn’t necessarily destined to have that career. In this environment, which is a difficult environment, it is a real struggle in the group of referees. We are all competitors, we all want the best match. We generally get along very well, but when you are in competition with others, there will surely be friction. And then there were political parties, the heads of the referees changed with the change of presidency of the Fed. I suffered a bit from all of that.
Because the referee of Didier Mené, Joël Dumé, did not see me very well. Luckily, I only stayed three years (2016-2019), but I had three difficult years. Everything that was rotten was for me. Keep your head up, you tell yourself that your performance will be a priority, but you don’t see it very well.
Your friends call you “Flash”, it’s hard for you to stay inactive … Now that you’re retired from refereeing, you’re sure to have professional projects in mind, right?
I sold my three real estate agencies because “Flash” (the DC Comics superhero, editor’s note), after a while, lost a bit of speed (smile). I had trouble doing everything and realized I wasn’t doing well. With the development of “JL Bro Nutrition” (a food supplement company he founded with his brother Jonathan, vice captain of Barbezieux-Jonzac), I had to choose and refocus on it. But now that the arbitration is over, I can’t stay like this, in activity alone. All these years of experience can’t be thrown away, I think I have things to communicate and convey. But I also want to have a slightly more stable family life …
“It simply came to our notice then. Keep your head up but you don’t see it very well “
Will you be collaborating with the Soyaux-Angoulême club, as it has been in the past?
No, the SA XV does not call me and asks me for technical analysis. But I go to the stadium with great pleasure, I comment on the matches, I became a consultant (of “France Bleu” and “Charente Libre”) and I think it’s great. The fact that the SA XV returns to the Pro D2 is an opportunity for the city to be exposed to the media. The Department and the City Council should be more aware of the possibility of having this banner. Today, sport unites everyone, all social classes.
Would you like to participate in the development of sport at the territorial level through a political commitment?