FRENCH rugby fans will be heading for a new 82,000-seater stadium in Ris-Orangis, Evry, outside Paris for all international and elite matches as the rugby federation has voted for a €500 million project to build its own "home".
The move to the former racecourse in the suburb of Evry Centre Essonne to the south-east of Paris comes after the Fédération Française de Rugby tired of playing second-fiddle to football matches - and even Johnny Hallyday - at the Stade de France.
A committee including FFR president Pierre Camou and former president Serge Blanco chose the new ground because of its easy transport links, its 133 hectare site near open countryside and the support of the local community.
This summer the FFR will pick architects and then, in 2013, the builders leading up to the opening of the €500m stadium in 2017.
The Ris-Orangis site is at the junction of the A6 and the Francilienne autoroutes, has two RER lines and, from 2013 a tram-train link, and has a TGV station nearby which will soon be joined by two others.
The ultra-modern Grand Stade will have a closing roof and a pitch that can be moved to allow for multiple uses. The FFR sees at least 20 events a year, including five or six for the French national team but also concerts and other forms of entertainment.
Serge Blanco, who led the stadium project, said: "This Ris-Orangis site opens new horizons for our game in France. It will provide a new-generation stadium that will become a showcase for French rugby."
The FFR was said to be annoyed it cost so much to hold games at Stade de France - nearly €5m for every game.
It only took in at most €2m after a sell-out match as it is thought it had to pay €1.3m to rent the stadium, €1.3m for posters, €1.4m for the corporate hospitality lodges, and €1m for the loss of seats pre-sold by the owners - yet looked to Twickenham where the English Rugby Football Union cashed a €6m cheque after every game.
It says that since 1998 it has "lost" €160m.
Most galling has been that it has had to move match dates to fit in round the concert and football calendar.
The 2009 Top 14 final had to be delayed until June because a Johnny Hallyday concert had been booked for the intended date, and then this year February's France-Ireland was called off at the last minute because stadium staff had not prevented the pitch from flooding.