Stade-Racing merger: Contracts 'up for grabs' in next month's game

Stade Francais
Stade Francais players address the media at a demonstration of supporters in their home stadium after the merger was announced

Contracts at a new club formed by the merger of French sides Racing 92 and Stade Francais are "up for grabs" when the rivals play each other next month, according to Stade's deputy chairman.

The two Paris sides announced their intention to merge from next season in a joint statement released on Monday.

Stade Francais host Racing 92 in the Top 14 on 29 April.

"There is a desire to build a side that can maybe be better than any other club in Europe," said Richard Pool-Jones.

The former Stade player confirmed the move was also motivated by a need to find "a financially viable model" with both clubs having generated "significant losses forever".

"Of course there is the financial aspect to it, which is very important but there is a positive side of combining forces so we can win titles," Pool-Jones told BBC Radio 5 live.

Racing are the reigning French champions, while Stade won the title in 2015, but both have struggled this season, lying in eighth and 11th respectively.

When asked whether players would be playing for their futures at the new club when the sides meet next month, Pool-Jones said: "I think that's a fair assessment.

"Sport is about competition and players know there are financial challenges for both clubs.

"This is a shock, it's not a particularly comfortable place for any of the players, but it's where we're at."

'As strong a rivalry as any in rugby'

Richard Pool-Jones
Richard Pool-Jones (right) won one England cap in 1998 and was a runner-up with Stade Francais in the 2001 Heineken Cup final

Pool-Jones explained that negotiations between the two clubs had only been going on for "a matter of weeks" and the merger plan was kept "a very well-preserved secret" until players were informed on Monday morning.

He added that the merger needed to be done in "an intelligent and respectful way" because of the rivalry between the clubs.

Stade Francais supporters demonstrated against the proposed merger at the club's stadium on Monday.

"I spent years enjoying standing all over the Racing club shirt, not that we don't respect it, and the same can be said of the Racing players about Stade Francais," Pool-Jones said.

"It's a very strong rivalry, as strong a rivalry as you'll find in rugby.

"It's never easy but it's about bringing the fans around and it's important to preserve the historical identities of both clubs in the new entity."

That approach will see elements of both shirts incorporated into a new design as well as a proposal to alternate home matches between Racing's new U Arena, due to be completed later in 2017, and Stade's recently expanded Stade Jean-Bouin.

The proposed amalgamation has to be ratified by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR).

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