Biarritz and Bayonne to merge?

Date published: January 25 2013

French clubs Bayonne and Biarritz have opened talks around the possibility of forming a single Basque team for the Heineken Cup.

Bayonne president Alain Afflelou has confirmed that he has opened talks with his Biarritz counterpart Serge Blanco around the possibility of forming a single Basque team for the Heineken Cup.

Both clubs failed to make it out of their respective Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup groups this season and Afflelou believes that a joint venture between the two Basque rivals at European level could be beneficial to all concerned.

“There all kinds of things we could do in terms of economy of scale, ” the Bayonne boss told L'Equipe.

“Maybe one day, a common stadium. And why not a single team in the European Cup.”

Afflelou, who is also the owner of Bayonne's principle sponsor, said that Blanco, who is also vice-president of the French Rugby Federation, was keen on the idea and that they would continue discussions in the near future. He added however that the clubs should remain separate entities at domestic level.

“Uniting the two clubs would be an artificial solution. They should exist separately so that rugby remains strong on the Basque coast,” said Afflelou.

European Rugby Cup president Jean-Pierre Lux said that “there is nothing to prevent the creation a Basque province to compete in the European Cup” if the necessary legal frameworks were put in place.

Former French international loose forward Thomas Lièvremont, who played for Biarritz before going on to become a coach at Bayonne, believes a joint team is a great idea, insisting that there is a “common Basque identity” despite the fierce rivalry between the clubs.

Ligue Nationale de Rugby president Paul Goze is less sure it's possible though.

“My position is simple: The European Cup is a competition of clubs that have qualified via the (domestic) championship,” said Goze.

“The hypothesis of a fusion just for the European Cup is perhaps intellectually attractive. But materially, its unfeasible.”