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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Paul Myers

Top French football federation executives roasted in leaked government audit

Noël Le Graët led the Fédération française de football for just over 10 years before falling from power. A leaked report of a government audit into the federation's management practices has uncovered a culture of agresssion, sexism and bullying. © FRANCK FIFE / AFP

French football's most powerful executives – including federation boss Noël Le Graët – have been given two weeks to respond to a raft of allegations that the outfit overseeing the sport in the country has been a cesspool of expletives, ritual humiliations, vulgar sexist insults and cronyism.

The provisional results of an inquiry into the atmosphere at the Fédération française de football (FFF) was handed to the interim president Philippe Diallo on Tuesday.

Leaked to the French news agency AFP as well as the French sports newspaper L'Equipe and the French broadcaster RMC, the review shines a light on the machinations within the 104-year-old institution.

It ultimately raises serious questions about Le Graët's ability to recapture the lead the organisation.

The 81-year-old stepped aside nearly three weeks ago following a radio interview with RMC in which he disparaged the former France international Zinedine Zidane.

He said he would not have bothered to answer the telephone had Zidane - who coached Real Madrid to 11 trophies including an unprecedented three consecutive Champions League crowns – contacted him over possibly replacing Didier Deschamps as boss of the France national team.


Even though he apologised for what he conceded were clumsy comments, Le Graët failed to quell the uproar.

The pressure continued to build on the former mayor of Guingamp especially after a football agent alleged in L'Equipe that he had acted inappropriately towards her at the outset of her career nearly a decade earlier.

The provisional report says that for two years Le Graët's public utterances have been often out of step with the way the French sports ministry wants the leading sports administrators to behave.

"The hearings conducted by the mission have highlighted a problematic attitude of Mr Le Graët towards women that can be qualified at least as sexist," the report says.


"Given his behaviour towards women, his public statements and the failure of the governance of the FFF, Mr Le Graët no longer has the necessary legitimacy to administer and represent French soccer," it adds.

Florence Hardouin, the FFF's director general, as well as the FFF's executive committee (Comex) also come under fire.

Hardouin, who faces dismissal for serious misconduct, was criticised over her poor relationship not only with Le Graët but other employees who the report says were routinely subjected to contemptuous or sexist remarks. The work and abilities of some were often denigrated during meetings.

The Comex are castigated for supinely yielding to Le Graët - the man who effectively gave them their places on the committee.

"It is undoubtedly one of the consequences of the blocked list ballot, which leaves no room for opposition," say the investigators.

"And it leads to a political strategy that consists of siding with the president, the head of the list."


Diallo, who was appointed after Le Graët said he would retire until the publication of the sports ministry's audit, has sent redacted copies of the report to each Comex member.

The Comex has been given until 13 February to comment. The final report is expected on 15 February.

"The FFF will communicate its own conclusions and decisions once the final audit commissioned by the Ministry of Sports has been submitted," said an FFF statement on Tuesday.

If Le Graët were to resign, it would be a humiliating end to a hitherto dazzling rise from provincial entrepreneur to the most prestigious administrative post in French football.

After founding the eponymous agribusiness in 1986, Le Graët became mayor of Guingamp between 1995 and 2008.

While he was president of the football club Guingamp, it rose from the regional divisions to the French top flight, a Coupe de France victory and participation in European competitions.

Le Graët was elected FFF president in June 2011. He was returned in December 2012 and again in March 2017.

Four years later, he won another term with just over 73 percent of the vote.



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