Derrien – Layec: Refereeing in court

These two former top referees were not always enemies. When they were 20 years old, at the end of the 80s, Bruno Derrien and Bertrand Layec appreciated each other to the point of spending weekends together. The two young referees, born at 15 months apart in the mid-1960s, one (Derrien) in Brest, the other (Layec) in Vannes, formed a group of friends, together with other brilliant referees, such as Améziane Khendek and Stéphane Bré. They were old friends, but their friendship turned into vinegar. And when a war broke out in the French refereeing in the early 2000s, the two former friends, promoted in the meantime in D1, did not play on the same team. Bertrand Layec, manager of the French referees since July 2009 and number 2 of the French Refereeing Department (DNA) led by Marc Batta, incarnates the power in place. Bruno Derrien, who bitterly left the refereeing in 2007, a year after being relegated to L2, represents the devil personified for the DNA. In the media to which he collaborates regularly or in the book “A bas l’arbitre!” published in January 2009, he fired red balls on the referees. The publication of this book, in which Bertrand Layec was mentioned in the column "those whom I do not thank", and where many former colleagues are attacked under the belt, provoked the ire of many referees and at least two strong reactions: an action in defamation by Marc Batta that was rejected by the court and an anonymous letter against Derrien. Bertrand Layec was accused in 2009 of having sent an abusive e-mail about Bruno Derrien to more than 100 recipients, from his professional e-mail address. The investigation revealed that the anonymous letter had been circulated on a large scale within the refereeing community from a computer to which only Bertrand Layec and the league secretary had access.
Two days after the publication of the book “A bas l’arbitre!”, Matthieu Rabby, administrative assistant at the DNA, wrote at night the e-mail incriminated and sent it, anonymously, from the address he created "" to the L'Equipe magazine under the title "Right of reply". In two pages, Matthieu Rabby insulted the ex-referee. "If you retired in the anonymity and vulgarity of an L2 match, it was probably because you deserved nothing else”, one could read in the letter attributed to Matthew Rabby. On March 26, Bertrand Layec had transferred the anonymous mail to 126 contacts from his address book, inviting his interlocutors to do the same, thus creating a cascading reaction and making a large publicity to the letter of insult. Allegedly signed by "a good hundred injured people", the e-mail was also sent in copy to the leaders of the FFF. "A spontaneous reflex", he said in court, "a way of responding to this book and Bruno Derrien's provocations in the media". I was a referee, it was a personal referee's suffering. "This wide distribution gave an incredible publicity to the letter and even caused, according to Bruno Derrien, the loss of his job at the communication service of the French Poste, partner of the referees’ organization. Bruno Derrien's lawyer denounced the "method" used by Matthieu Rabby and then Bertrand Layec to answer to the book: "The civilized method is to address the concerns with the court when one is targeted in a book", as DNA's boss Marc Batta did, and his complaint was rejected in December 2009. The defendants pleaded the response to the "provocation" contained in Bruno Derrien's book. Layec’s lawyer asked the court not to be "influenced in this settlement of accounts", stating that the publicity around the letter was the act of the victim himself, "who widely circulated it to the press".
Bertrand Layec received a 500 euro suspended sentence and was ordered to pay 1,000 euro of damages to the plaintiff. Mathieu Rabby received a 1,000 euro suspended sentence, in addition to 2,000 euro in damages. "I am particularly pleased with the decision that puts an end to a case where I was the victim and deeply hurt. I hope that the French refereeing will regain its serenity before Euro 2012", said Derrien when the sentence was announced.