Making rugby the major sport it is! Sport-Banque: the “Club Athlétique de la Societe Generale” (CASG) magazine

January 1905. From its very first issue, Sport-Banque, the magazine published by the Club Athlétique de la Société Générale (CASG), strove to encourage people to play rugby. These relentless efforts helped, through the press, to popularise rugby in France’s collective psyche.

It was in December 1904, during the end-of-year festivities, that the rugby branch of the Club Athlétique de la Société Générale (CASG) inaugurated its first season by playing a friendly in Alençon. Back at a time when the sport was still amateur, the corporate sports association’s bosses notably set their heart on rugby and recommended that the Bank’s employees and customers should partake in this sport. A month later, they launched Sport-Banque, a monthly magazine that aimed to promote the club’s interests and, more broadly, stimulate a fondness for physical activity. From the outset, the periodical was designed to be a bridge between the CASG’s regional groups. Each issue included a schedule of upcoming events, a clarification of the rules, registration forms and a column – including photos – detailing the performances of its members. Each issue generally ended with advertisements, including a permanent ad vaunting the merits of engraver Charles Brennus, the inventor of the shield that bears his name and is given to champions of the French first division each season. The magazine gradually expanded over the years. After it briefly ceased publication at the beginning of the First World War, it changed its formulae a number of times, including more and more illustrations (photos, maps, drawings) and continually updating and adding to its various columns, even going so far as to give nutritional advice and reminding amateur sports enthusiasts of some basic behavioural rules.

Between the two World Wars, rugby was prominent in Sport-Banque. The sport became more widespread and was increasingly being followed by the general public. In 1928, with the CASG having more than ten thousand members, the magazine had an average print-run of four thousand copies. Attuned to the values associated with playing rugby, the magazine recommended that young people should “frolic in the open air by partaking in this healthy and fortifying exercise”. It continually reminded people that victory often comes through energy, courage, team spirit, commitment and a fondness for one’s team. The magazine thus boasted about the exploits of its rugby men with their light blue and white shirts. In the 1920s, the CASG’s first team, nicknamed “Les Banquiers” (the bankers), included almost a dozen French internationals and played representational matches throughout France. Its Paris Region subdivision were crowned Paris champions in 1926 and 1933. With its readers increasingly eager for anecdotes, the magazine had to further expand its rugby section. Remarkably illustrated, its correspondents’ reports were riddled with details of sequences of play, gave a detailed assessment of the season to date and painted the portrait of emblematic players such as Marcel Besson and Gilbert Gérintes. Just like the country’s elite clubs, the CASG’s first team participating in the Yves du Manoir Challenge, the ancestor of the French “Top 14” first division. In 1930, the magazine changed its name to “La Revue mensuelle du Club Athlétique de la Société Générale” (the CASG monthly review).

Because of financial difficulties that arose in part because of the CASG’s corporate status, the magazine again ceased publication between 1937 and 1954. The post-war years represented a time of renewal. The Union Athlétique de la Société Générale (UASG), a multisport association dependent on the Bank’s central works council and exclusively reserved for members of staff, was founded in 1948. However, this didn’t stop the Bank continuing to support the CASG through to 1995, the year in which its rugby branch merged with Stade Français. Having become a quarterly magazine, La Revue du Club Athlétique de la Société Générale definitively ceased publication in 1970. However, it has left us with the memory of a periodical that was both instructive and entertaining where the love of sport – and in particular the love of rugby – was continually placed on a pedestal. Since then, rugby has shown that it still has a very bright future.

© Archives historiques