Noël Le Graët, the president of the French Football Federation, announced his resignation on Tuesday during a meeting of the executive committee. The strong man of French football, more cornered than ever, had been removed from office on January 11 after controversial statements about Zinedine Zidane. His resignation comes just two weeks after the publication of a devastating audit in which his centralist management of power and his inappropriate behavior towards women were denounced. The Paris prosecutor’s office is also investigating him for moral and sexual harassment.
In an interview with the newspaper the world a posteriori, Le Graët (Kerdonnad, 81 years old) has rejected the accusations and has announced that he will challenge the report in court. It is a “well organized political-media cabal”, he has said. Her lawyer will also file a defamation complaint against the Sports Minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, whom they accuse of “manipulating information,” according to the newspaper.
The French soccer boss, whose fourth term was due to expire in two years, rose to the top of the federation more than a decade ago. The only son of a humble family from the Breton countryside, he witnessed the victory of the men’s team in the 2018 World Cup, a runner-up in 2022 and a second place in the Eurocup. But his resignation had been demanded for several weeks by various heavyweights in the world of football and even by his family.
Following the announcement of his resignation, Eric Borghini, a member of the executive committee, has declared to the press that Le Graët will head FIFA’s Paris office. The Frenchman has been a member of the International Federation Council since 2019 and was appointed delegate of President Gianni Infantino to FIFA’s Paris office on January 27, 2022.
In a statement, the French Football Federation (FFF) has highlighted “the remarkable sporting and economic achievements” of what was known as the menhir, in reference to the monoliths of his home region, Brittany. Vice-President Philippe Diallo will assume the post as interim until June, he added. The group has also lamented a “disproportionate denigration of the institution” as a result of the audit.
His end of term is marked by a series of controversies, including accusations of sexual harassment. “He status quo it is impossible”, said the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra after the publication on February 15 of the results of the inspection on his management, which she herself commissioned. Le Graët no longer has “the necessary legitimacy to manage and represent” soccer in the country.
At the head of the FFF during one of its golden ages, the businessman has drawn attention in recent months for his outbursts. On January 8, this former socialist mayor of the municipality of Guingamp, in the Brittany region, unleashed a storm after making statements about Zinedine Zidane on the RMC radio station.
After France lost to Argentina on penalties in the World Cup final in Qatar, the name of the French footballer was raised as a possible replacement for Didier Deschamps, in charge since 2012. When the interviewer asked Le Graët if they had spoken on the phone He replied: “Not at all. I wouldn’t have picked up the phone.” To another question about Brazil’s interest in Zizou, he launched: “I don’t give a damn, he can go wherever he wants (…)”.
Five months of investigations
But the French soccer strongman was already at the center of criticism for a series of accusations about his behavior within the federation and towards women. On September 8, the magazine So Foot He published fragments of undated messages of a sexual nature allegedly sent by the president of the federation to some collaborators. The article also highlighted his difficult character and disastrous management. Le Graët denies everything and has filed a defamation complaint against the publication.
The French Minister of Sports then decided to entrust an audit to the General Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research (IGESR, by its French acronym). The investigation lasted about five months and in the meantime new testimonies emerged about Le Graët’s inappropriate behavior. Among them that of Florence Hardouin, the general director of the FFF, who affirmed that she was also a victim of sexual and moral harassment, according to the world. On January 16, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation for moral and sexual harassment after Sonia Souid, an agent for several French internationals, also accused him of inappropriate behavior.
The report’s conclusions came to light a month later, on February 15. They were devastating. The audit highlighted excessive alcohol consumption, a solo management of power and a series of behaviors “incompatible with the exercise of their duties and the requirement of exemplarity that is attached to their position.” The strongman of French football, now disgraced, had little time left.
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