Bernard Jackman Reveals Startling Treatment Of Island Players In France

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Bernard Jackman has revealed that Polynesian players are experiencing huge exploitation in the lower rungs of French rugby.

Hundreds of players from the Pacific Island have been lured to France over the years, particularly to the lower rungs, by unscrupulous agents who have made them promises they are unable to keep.

According to Jackman, many of these players are forced to wrestle with dire employment terms by various clubs and are left with unsustainable financial demands when they arrive into the country.

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Former Ireland and Connacht hooker, Jackman, who is the current head coach at Top 14 side Grenoble, says he hasn’t been surprised by the huge influx of players from Polynesian descent into French rugby, but is dismayed by their treatment by ruthless representatives.

“There are so many Polynesian players at all levels of professional rugby because they’re gifted genetically, they’re made for combat and they’re incredibly skilled,” he told Game On host John Kenny on RTÉ 2fm.

“Unfortunately for them – or fortunately for the clubs – they’re cheaper than the local players.  

“In France particularly, there are a huge amounts of cowboy agents, who entice these players from the Islands, particularly Fiji, to come to France to lower-level clubs.

“Once they get here, they’re exploited.”

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He also revealed the huge role remittances play in the lives of players and communities back home.

“We’ve three Fijians, and we’ve Samoans and Tongans,” he said of his current Grenoble squad.

“A lot of those send nearly all their money back to the Islands and we’ve one player that pretty much supports his whole village.

“That’s just the way it is. He doesn’t see any issue with that. It’s just the way he’s been brought up.

“They share, so if someone in the village does well, all the money goes back there.”

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Jackman states that players receive far greater protection in the Top 14, but as soon as they go lower, the problems arise.

“In the Top 14, they have a lot more protection,” Jackman explained.

“But when you go down to Fédérale 1, Fédérale 2 – domestic leagues in France where they mightn’t be fully professional but there are contracts – those players are always on a borderline as to whether they’re going to get paid next month.

“Clubs can play on that, they can pay them half their salary, but the issue is that there are families back in Fiji or Tonga or Samoa who are waiting for that money to buy food.”

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The burden can prove too much for even the broadest of shoulders and Jackman believes the judiciary has provided these beleaguered players with scant help.

“French law is unbelievably slow,” the 40-year-old lamented.

“If you were to take a court case against the club – and a lot of foreigners in the past have tried to – they just kick it to touch for so long.

“It can take you three or four years.

“Most players don’t have the mental fortitude or the financial power to actually stick with that process.

“Clubs know, at a lower level, they can treat a foreigner pretty badly and know that probably down the road there won’t be any repercussions for them because another Fijian or Samoan or Tongan will be desperate for an opportunity, and will hope that it won’t happen to them.

Shocking to hear, let’s hope something can be done about it.

Jason Hennessy

Jason Hennessy

Jason is the editor at RugbyLAD. Any queries big or small you can reach him at [email protected]
Jason Hennessy