The Federation Francaise de Rugby a Treize has announced an encouraging set of statistics pointing toward a significant growth in French rugby league. As of May 1st, the FFRXIII numbered 39,994 participants, of whom 10,994 are subscribers who have signed up for the whole season, from all age groups.
These numbers show a marked increase of 4,840 paying registered participants since the 2004-5 season, a surge replicated in the school system where now more than 29,000 children play rugby league. In the same time period, the number of official associations (clubs and other bodies) affiliated to the French federation have increased by ten per cent.
Commenting on the analysis, FFRXIII president Nicolas Larrat was understandably ebullient about the state of the game in the nation, "These figures clearly demonstrate all the work being done by French rugby league and its operatives in promoting the sport," he said. "The growth in all sectors is remarkable and we have every reason to be optimistic about the road ahead. Our objective of 15,000 paying licence holders and 50,000 participants we set out to achieve by 2015 is no longer an illusion, and it would represent exceptional growth in a ten-year period."
He continued, "It goes without saying that I must thank the federation's elected officials for their dedication, all those people in charge of clubs, leagues and [regional] committees that support and implement the federation's policies; our technical staff and development officers for the work they do on a daily basis. But, I tell them that we can do even better and trying to create schools competitions is first and foremost a priority. That link, between schools and our leagues is more important than ever. Now that we've created a strong foundation it is the FFRXIII's duty to be even more ambitious.
"The federation is understandably confident that it is in a strong position, with the methods to teach and develop rugby league and to be considered a serious and worthwhile choice for a growing number of French citizens."
That - according to Larrat - is the "biggest victory."