Stade Français Paris: The Famous Top 14 Pink Jersey
Stade Français History and Highlights.
With 14 domestic league titles under their belt, Stade Français Paris are one of the powerhouses in French union rugby. Like most other Top 14 clubs, They have come to their current iteration following a merger of several clubs. Surprisingly, the merger happened more than a century after the club was established!
A group of university friends started the club in 1883, nine years before the first French championship took place. In the maiden French championship final, Stade Français challenged Racing Club de France for national glory. Racing clinched a narrow 4-3 win and entered the history books as the first-ever French union rugby champions.
The two clubs met again in the final the next year, and luck was on Stade’s side this time. They saw off their Parisian rivals in a 7-3 win and brought home the French national championship trophy, the Bouclier de Brennus, for the first time. Stade Français were present in all the French championship finals between 1892 and 1899. That seven-year streak resulted in five titles.
In 1900, the club missed the final for the first time in their history. But, they made up for it by becoming the champions in 1901. Stade Français Paris couldn’t qualify for the final in 1902, but they strung together six successive final appearances from 1903. However, they won only two of those six finals.
After having a lot of success in the first few years of the domestic league, the Stade didn’t play a final again until 1927, when they lost to Toulouse 19 points to 9 in Toulouse. Afterward, they spent more than fifty years in the lower tiers of French rugby.
When Max Guazzini became the club president in 1992, the days of Stade Français’s domestic dominance were distant memories. They were no longer a top division side, and stadium attendances were at an all-time low. Guazzini faced an uphill battle to guide Stade Français back to prominence, but he lived up to the challenge.
Guazzini introduced several reforms to lure back the fans. In 1995, he oversaw the club’s merger with Club Athlétique des Sports Généraux (CASG). Within five years of the Guazzini era, Stade Français transitioned to the top division from the third tier. But that was not the end of Guazzini’s ambitions.
In 1998, Stade Français marked the centennial of their 1908 league win with another French top-flight title and wrote one of the most fascinating comeback stories in sports history. The club went on to win the league again in 2003 and 2004. In 2001, they made it to their first European Rugby Championship Cup final, but Leicester Tigers beat them to the trophy.
Guazzini not only brought on-pitch success to the club but also ushered in a new cultural identity for the club. He made Gloria Gaynor’s famous hit “I Will Survive” the club anthem. The song is so catchy that the France national soccer team also chose to adopt it. In addition, he brought in international superstars like Naomi Campbell and Madonna as sponsors.
He was also the guy who is responsible for the pink jerseys Stade Français currently wear. It was an unusual choice of color in the rugby world back then. However, despite the controversial design, the jerseys sold well, and pink has remained a prominent color in the Stade Français home game jersey ever since.
But, all good stories come to an end. Guazzini began the construction of Stade Jean-Bouin, the club’s new 12,000-seater arena. But afterward, the club fell into severe financial complications, and Guazzini sold the club in June 2011.
The new ownership, headed by Oberthur Fiduciaire managing director Thomas Savare, oversaw the completion of Stade Jean-Bouin and led the club to a Top 14 victory in 2015. In 2017, Stade Français also won the European Challenge Cup under the new regime.
In 2017, Hans-Peter Wild took over the Top 14 club and initiated another phase of reform and rebranding. The club have embraced a new logo that honors their glorious past while setting sights on newer frontiers in the future.