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Billionaire investors' takeover of Beziers expected 'in the next few days' after Paris meeting

By Ian Cameron
Christophe Dominici is brokering the deal (Photo by liewig christian/Corbis via Getty Images)

The takeover of AS Béziers Hérault by billionaire UAE investors is set to go ahead ‘in the next few days’ according to the ProD2 club. The club held a ‘constructive’ meeting in Paris with the new investors, whose plan to invest in the side could set in train a major power shift in the French game.

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Many are tipping Béziers to become a new giant of French rugby over the course of the next decade, should the takeover deal go ahead. French winger Christophe Dominici has been acting as a middle man between the party, and according to the club, ownership could change hands ‘in the next few days’.

Should the deal go ahead, Béziers will almost immediately become a major heavy hitter in the global player market place. Already they have been linked with Beauden Barrett, Ma’a Nonu, Dan Biggar and Benjamin Fall, the latter of whom is said to already said yes to the blue and reds, provided the Emiratis’ takeover goes ahead.

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The LNR salary cap is currently set at €11.3 million, with an extra €200,000 allowed per French international, which works out at an average of €275,000 per player in a 40 man squad.  A major cash injection from their new investors could see them blow their ProD2 opponents out of the proverbial water in terms of buying power, in a bid to win promotion to the Top 14.

According to a club statement, the two parties met in Paris to discuss the future of the once-mighty club, “in a peaceful and constructive climate”. During this meeting, the current shareholders were reassured about the authenticity of the UAE based investors and their “financial capacity”.

The club presented their own accounts which passed muster, despite the debt the team has amounted. The two parties have now sought advice in order to draft a memorandum of understanding, before entering into a “period of exclusivity”.

The club have also confirmed the departure of the club’s majority shareholder, Louis-Pierre Angelotti, from the negotiations. Angelotti had been on the receiving end of ‘threats and hateful words’ in ‘the past few days’ and has now given up on his own, alternative takeover and recovery plan for the club. In a press release, he claimed he had “suffered serious insults and unacceptable and unbearable threats”.

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Angelotti, whose group has sponsored the club for 20 years, had sought out former Toulouse president René Bouscatel, to help in him with his new vision for the club. He has now stepped away from his support of the club.

Béziers have won eleven French championship titles since its establishment in 1911, but have fallen down the tables in recent years, even facing the ignominy of relegation to the Federale 1 at the end of 2008-09 season. They stand at 9th in the ProD2 and face a complete overhaul if they want to win relegation form the super-competitive second division, which currently includes the likes of Grenoble, Biarritz, Perpignan and Colomiers.

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Poorfour 5 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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