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France

From French rugby heroes to ‘horsemeat zeros’

© AFP

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2013-02-15

Until the scandal of horsemeat being sold as beef across Europe was linked to a French meat processing company, the name Spanghero was better-known in France as that of a family that had produced some of the country’s biggest sporting heroes.

Spanghero, the French company accused of knowingly supplying horsemeat labelled as beef, was a name synonymous with French rugby glory and commercial success – until this week.

The meat processing firm was founded in 1970 by Claude Spanghero, who played in the French national rugby side 22 times, and his brother Laurent, a leading member of the Narbonne XV.

From a family of six rugby-playing sons (and two daughters), the most famous Spanghero brother is Walter, capped 51 times and in the squad that won France’s first Five Nations Grand Slam in 1968.

And while Spanghero is no longer family-owned, Walter admitted Thursday that the entire family was suffering from the shame of being associated with the horsemeat scandal.

Spangharo drops the ball

But on Thursday, Spaghero’s licence to process meat was suspended as the French authorities accused the company of buying some 750 tonnes of horsemeat over an estimated six-month period from Romanian abattoirs through Dutch and Cypriot intermediaries.

Spanghero is accused of deliberately re-labelling the product “Beef, origin EU” and making profits of hundreds of thousands of euros as they benefited from the cheaper price of horsemeat.

As the investigation continues, the company faces an uncertain future and its employees risk the agony of being made redundant from a company that was, until recently, a booming business.

‘Man of Steel’ weeps for family reputation

But the pain is being felt keenly by the family. Walter, one of France’s biggest sporting heroes who was dubbed "Man of Steel" by his sporting opponents, told Le Parisien during a telephone interview: “I’m sorry, but this story is making me cry.

“It has hit us all profoundly. When we are out on the streets, people look at us like we're criminals.”

The Spanghero clan will meet next week to discuss how they can save their family reputation, Le Parisien reported.

In 2009, the brothers sold their majority holding to the French food distribution giant Lur Berri, a principal condition of the sale being that the company should retain the name "Spanghero" - and keep the pride of a regional and French sporting family name alive.

And in 2011, after a period of restructuring and food safety improvements, the company was awarded the prestigious International Food Standard (IFS) certificate.

Date created : 2013-02-15

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