Controversy in French football: Noël Le Graët, the head of the federation, is summoned to the ministry this Friday

“Moment of exchange” with heavy files two months from the World Cup: Noël Le Graët is expected on Friday at the Ministry of Sports, when the head of the French Football Federation faces embarrassing information from the press about his management and behavior towards employees.

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WITHeven sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra has asked the 80-year-old leader and his general manager Florence Hardouin for a meeting that looks like a summons to discuss “various topics”, from fan outpourings to the energy transition of participating in the next World Cup in Qatar (November 20 – December 18). But maybe also because the news demanded it.

“I don’t accept them to have tea, I don’t accept them to tell me everything is fine. I accept them because I need to listen to what they tell me, “said the minister in an interview published Thursday evening on the Paris website.

Last week, the management, as well as the personality of the Breton, was heavily criticized in an article in the monthly magazine So Foot, which, based on anonymous testimonies, evoked the sending of SMS of a sexual nature by Le Graët to FFF employees.

The federation responded Thursday after a meeting of its executive committee by announcing a complaint “for defamation of So Foot magazine over serious defamatory allegations” in the article.

“I’m not minimizing anything that was returned to So Foot,” Amélie Oudéa-Castéra told Le Parisien.

After their conversation on Friday, which according to the ministerial agenda is scheduled until 10:00 a.m., no speeches are expected from the minister or the head of the FFF.

The case, if proven, is a burning one for ‘3F’, who were founded by Le Graët after the Blues’ nightmare strike in Knysna at the 2010 World Cup and the crowning planetary coronation eight years later in Moscow.

“Inaction” when harassed

According to a source spoken to by So Foot, several women have resigned from the body in recent years because they felt “sexually but also morally harassed”.

The professional players’ union UNFP, for its part, condemned the federation’s “inaction” in the fight against harassment, “sexual or non-sexual”. He hopes Friday’s meeting can be “an opportunity to end the harassment, this plague of French football”.

Asked about the situation on Thursday, Blues coach Didier Deschamps admitted that the current FFF climate “is not the most peaceful”. But he also bemoaned what he called the search for “buzz.”

“You know my relationship with the president, I spoke with him at length yesterday (Wednesday). What do you want me to tell you? ” he declared at the press conference. “The president is fine, he’s in great shape. »

Le Graët, who arrived in 2011 and was re-elected for a new term in 2021, is credited with presiding over the break-up of the French men’s team thanks to the loyal duo he forms with Deschamps while restoring federal funding through a record deal with equipment supplier Nike .

The women’s practice has also developed with a surge in the number of female license holders, despite Les Bleues’ failures at the 2019 World Cup at home (quarter-finals) and last summer’s Women’s Euros (semi-finals).

Risky trips

In turn, his opponents evoke an authoritarian exercise of power, a lack of interest in amateur football, which he is fighting against, or even a government undermined by the conflicts surrounding the divisive Florence Hardouin.

On the communication side, “NLG” has been guilty of risky outings by minimizing the problem of homophobia in stadiums or racism in football, which he says is “non-existent or almost non-existent”. He also made waves when he made a sexist statement about disagreements between the Blues, who “can pull their hair out” if they are winning.

But “Menhir”, the founding CEO of the Le Graët group (780 employees), specializing in fishing, preserves and frozen meals, remains undeterred: he recovered from lymphoid leukemia announced in 2018 and rejected the possibility of giving a hand in office.

“I have no intention of quitting at all. If my health remains stable, if I do well, there is absolutely no reason for me to quit. I am very good at my job and everyone likes me. I’m lucky to be recognized,” he told L’Equipe.

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