Many presidents have worked on the development and durability of the Club.
GEORGE HENRY JACKSON FOR THE IMPULSE (1904-1911)
Appointed as United States Consul in La Rochelle In 1898, creation year of athletic sports company “Stade Rochelais”, George Henry Jackson joined the technical comity before chairing this general sports company from December of 1904 to April of 1911. He gave the impulse to the rugby section, convinced the councilors of the benefits of outdoor sports, helped finance the Stadist's gear and travels and negotiated a central location for practice, the Trianon Sports Field which was easily accessible for the rochelais' notability. He strengthened the rugby team by making it easier for young British players to come. These players introduced the nearby military garrisons and the Fromentin high-school students to the discipline's nuances. He then promoted the oval ball's image by regularly welcoming British teams to the Trianon.
He was a charismatic ambassador to the sport in the Atlantic Comity, but was forced to hand over the Stade Rochelais presidency in April of 2011 after his country's government voted a law prohibiting any american citizen from chairing in a foreign association.
GEORGES PLANTARD FOR A « SURVIVAL OPERATION » (1930-1937 puis 1938-1939)
During the inter-war period the Stade Rochelais vegetated in an unattractive first or second series Charentes Championship. Buffeted and weakened by the “class rivalry”, which was fueled by the La Rochelle-Pallice Sporting Committee harbor workers, the Yellow and Black club unraveled. The constant replacing of presidents showed the obvious instability. No less than eight presidents succeeded each other between 1920 and 1930, until the election of Georges Plantard who combined being an active player and the president. George Plantard presided from May of 1930 to June of 1935. After hanging up his playing career, he co-presided the “Union-Stade Rochelais” merger with Valentin Gaillepand from June of 1935 to May of 1937 after the amateur La Rochelle XIII emergence. Once he ensured this survival operation, he took a year off before resuming his presidency from May of 1938 to June of 1939.
MARCEL DEFLANDRE THE RESISTANCE FIGHTER PRESIDENT (1941-1943)
When the sporting activities resumed in an occupied zone after the German invasion, the La Rochelle Students XIII and the Union-Stade merged on the 10th of January, 1941, to create the Stade-Rochelais. Marcel Deflandre, Midi Refineries director in La Pallice, was elected president to this new entity. In October of 1942 he rallied the local resistance to the “Honor and Homeland” group, and hijacked large amounts of fuel for the local networks. He was reported and arrested by the Gestapo one year later, on October 9th, 1943. He was transferred to the Hâ Fort, where he was sentenced to death and executed in the Souge camp on January 11th, 1944. This charismatic president who was very close to his players and mindful of the club's attractive image assured an energetic presidency, which sadly ended too soon during a tragically evil time.
ANDRÉ CAEN AND THE RACE TEAM EXCESSES (1950-1953)
After taking on the the status of deputy chairman following the arrest of Marcel Deflandre in October of 1943 until September of 1945, André Caen became president of the Stade Rochelais in June of 1950. After an impressive ascent and the rise to Federal, the highest national level, the club managed the short-term and was willing to stay in the French rugby elite, whatever the means. The external contributions from “traveling passengers” who were solicited by local sponsors looking for valorization did not allow the Stade to find its identity, and even worse, as money divided the men. The expensive opportunists created an alarming deficit, “covered” by the president André Caen. The indictment was without concession as the reported deficit was close to 1.2 million Francs. The “Race Team” excesses were fatal to the management committee and its president, and imposed a radical change of direction.
ROBERT AUBARBIER OF THE RELAUNCH AND TURNAROUND (1945-1950 puis 1953-1956)
Robert Aubarbier was in the first instance the man who relaunched the club, as he first was the president of the Rugby section from September of 1945 to September of 1948 when the federated sports activities resumed in the ESCR, and then the president of the Stade Rochelais from September of 1948 to June of 1950. After all the excesses that were reported during a heated general assembly in August of 1943, he became president once again as he replaced André Caen. His only goal was to execute a plan of sport and financial moral redress and consolidation. The erring ways of the past three megalomaniacal seasons that led the club to ruin left way to Jansenism discipline and fiscal austerity, taken on by president Aubarbier and his new management committee. The selfless training, education and commitment were the fundamental values of the “cultural revolution”.
RENÉ CHEVALIER, THE FIRST MODERNITY PRESIDENT (1964-1974)
After presiding the important sport commission from June of 1957 to June of 1964, René Chevalier served as president to the Stade Rochelais from June of 1964 to June of 1974. He concentrated on remaining the conscience and to vouch for the values and ethics of the Stade's identity, all while developing the Rochelais rugby school as a vital necessity to education, training and sustainability of the club. He formed a triumvirate, along with his friend Pouyfourcat and local rugby's apostle Arnaud Elissalde, that brought the club up to the highest sports destiny during a decade. Along with Jacques Larrose, he was the Allez Stade paper's initiator and kingpin, which was printed on his company's press. René Chevalier was a pragmatical diplomat who knew men well and new exactly what to expect. This man was listened to and respected, and was fully committed to his sport in the city. He never drifted apart from his unwavering tenacity and his great sense of loyalty to his club. In hindsight he can be considered as the first modernity president.
JACQUES LARROSE FOR A NEW SPORTS POLICY (1979-1986)
Jacques Larrose was a player and one of the first rugby school educators in 1953. He then became the first Allez Stade paper's editor-in-chief when it was created in 1958. Jacques Larrose became the Stade Rochelais' president in June of 1979 following Jean Tassin's resignation. During a fragile time where efficiency and profitability notions challenged some ancestral behaviors that confined the club to isolation, president Larrose endeavored to open the club and compensate the decline in quality of the players by recruiting elsewhere and prospecting the neighboring comities' clubs. This new sports policy asserted itself to face the diminished potential without contravening Caravelle's basis of identity.
The conformists, who supported absolute protectionism, and the progressive ones, who were in favor of foreigners joining the Yellow and Black club – the Welsh Karl Moose and the New Zealander Jim Kururangi for example – forced president Larrose to take a big step, which he tried to calmly own up to until 1986 and the relegation of the club to the B group.
YVAN CARIS THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO RECRUIT ABROAD (1986-1991)
Yvan Caris was elected as club president in May of 1986. He announced a new ambitious sports policy with only one goal : bringing the club back up into group A. After the cancelled visit of the All Blacks captain Graham Mourie in 1977, president Caris advocated the sacred union for an ambitious policy before once again recruiting New Zealanders like Greg Coffey, the Maori Tala Kele, Steve Hansen – the current All Blacks coach – as well as the Irishman Mc Ardle, the Scottish Stephen Alcorn and the Fidjian Sagata.
Yvan Caris instigated the Rugby-folies in 1986 and 1988, and the Blacks-folies in 1990. These were moments of great festivity and valorization of the club's image in the city, with preoccupying fiscal cost. When the Stade reconnected with the A group for a while in 1989 and 1990, the cultural and financial excesses started to alert with a deficit close to 1.2 million Francs. This bewilderment led to Caris stepping down from the presidency in July of 1991.
VINCENT MERLING TO RECONNECT WITH THE STADE'S VALUES AND TO GROW TOGETHER (1991...)
A team of forty-year-olds took over and the young president Vincent Merling, elected in July of 1991, put the Stade Rochelais back on the right track thanks to a financial reassertion, rigorous management and making training and education a priority again, with respect to the Stade's values. The construction and opening of a training center in July of 1996 were proof of this determination. Then came the rise back into group A, the Top 20, some patching to bring the caravel to the highest level and the internationalization of the team in order to stay in competition with the narrowing elite. Merling has been the Stade Rochelais' president for 25 years, and of the professional entity since 2013. He has been helping his club thanks to his capacity to anticipate development, to foresee new projects and to surround himself with competent personnel without separating himself from the patience that is primordial to any collective construction. The sport's glorious uncertainty was integrated to the strategies that brought the club to excellence, whether they were structural, financial, judicial or economical. This is where the wisdom and reasonable ambition of a president and his team lays, mastering the competition variations and the absolute necessity to grow together.
Texts written by Jean-Michel Blaizeau, Historian