Sarlat Rugby's History
Sarlat Rugby Club Story, Players, Stadium.
|Stadium||Stade Christian Goumondie|
Until recently, the French town of Sarlat was mostly known for its foie gras, truffles, chateaus, and its signature method of cooking potatoes. At least, that was until the sudden 2021-22 rise of the rugby team bearing its name, Sarlat Rugby, started making headlines.
Of course, Sarlat Rugby did not just materialize out of the ether, and it has a long history dating back to 1903, when it was originally founded as a multisports club. However, things were a lot more casual back then. In fact, the club’s early days were played without changerooms, a referee, or even a real name for the club or the oval-balled game it was playing.
But despite its built-from-nothing beginnings, the club served an important purpose in the town. Providing a social gathering point for the local community to get together and enjoy a bit of sport for the sake of sport, the newly-formed association stuck. Ten years later, it was officially baptized as a formal sporting club.
Sarlat Rugby’s baptism as a fully-fledged sporting association took place on 12 February, 1913, and its first official name was the Sarlat Football Club — a name that reflected the club’s focus on the newly-popular game of rugby that, in the preceding years, had taken the French sporting world by storm.
By this time, the club had also adopted its signature blue and black color combination, and had found itself a proper home at Pechs Field in 1912, not too far from its current home at Christian Goumondie Stadium. Prior to this, it had been playing in a local park close to the town’s center.
Here, Sarlat’s rugby club would remain for another nine years, until it finally took up residency at the club’s current home ground in 1921. The following year, in 1922, it would officially adopt the Sarlat Athletic Club as its official name via a democratic decision.
Of course, while the club’s new ground might now carry the Christian Goumondie name, it has only done so since 2017 when the local community set about changing it in his honor. Prior to this, it was simply known as Madrazès Stadium.
Indeed, when Sarlat Athletic Club first took up residency at its new home in 1921, it was still another 25 years until Christian Goumondie would even be born, and his arrival at the club wouldn’t take place for almost another 50 years. When Goumondie did arrive at the club, however, the impression he made would outlast his lifetime.
Arriving in the 1968-69 season, right in the midst of the club’s golden years, Goumondie had recently been crowned the French Junior Champion while playing for nearby Périgueux. Clearly talented, the club welcomed him with open arms, and “Goums,” as he was known, reciprocated whole-heartedly, going on to display a life-long loyalty that would see Sarlat posthumously rename the stadium in 2017.
But “Goums” wasn’t the only one with a recent brush with the elites of French rugby at the time of his arrival. In fact, in the season before his arrival, the now-flourishing club had come painfully close to winning the French Championships when it made it to the semi-finals, only to be knocked out by Montluçon in a close 11-9 defeat.
Precipitating this rise was the arrival of the formidable Isidore Vidal in 1962, whose talent as one of the best scorers in France paved the way for bigger and better things from the club. This kicked off an era in the club’s history that would be one of its most fruitful for many years to come, culminating in the club’s rise to France’s elite first division for the first time in 1970. The club’s rugby school would also be founded in the interim by a local author and publisher with a fierce love of rugby, Yves Pèlerin.
Sarlat Rugby’s time at the top would only last for one short season, however, and it was relegated to the second division for 1971-72. However, the club was still strong, and it fought admirably in the years that followed, eventually earning a spot back in the first division for the 1978-79 season.
This would also mark the end of the club’s golden years, however, and, in the coming decades, it would face a slow decline, eventually bottoming out in France’s Federal 3 (fifth division). Fortunately, this was a fate it would later reverse in 2019 when it earned a promotion to Federale 2 after a surprise win against US Bazas in the season final.
Unfortunately, the outbreak of Covid-19 threatened to put a stop to the club’s plans. As play shut down and sponsors dried up, the financial position of the club started to look doubtful. This saw the arrival of French-American entrepreneur, Dom Einhorn, who, in addition to a significant sponsorship dollars, brought plans to commercialize the club and see it rise back through the ranks of French rugby.
The ensuing period proved controversial, particularly resulting from the rebranding of the team as Sarlat Rugby, breaking with the club’s long-held moniker of Club Athlétique Sarladais Périgord Noir (CASPN). However, results did follow, and the recruitment of several high-profile players from Top 14 and Pro D2, such as Hemani Paea and Ikapote Fono, made a massive impact.
Indeed, after another Covid-interrupted 2020-21 season, Sarlat Rugby’s A-Team would go on to finish the regular 2021-22 Federale 2 season on a winning streak that lasted from start to finish. Whether it will make the climb back to Federale 1 and beyond, however, is still a question that only further results and finances can answer.