Minister orders investigation of French soccer federation

·2 min read

PARIS (AP) — France’s sports minister ordered an investigation into the French Football Federation (FFF) after its president, Noël Le Graët, faced claims of sexual harassment.

Amélie Oudéa-Castéra met with Le Graët on Friday morning and then announced the investigation — known as an “audit and control mission” — which will be carried out by the state inspection body in charge of sports.

The meeting came one day after the federation announced its decision to file a defamation lawsuit against the So Foot magazine, which reported earlier this month that Le Graët allegedly harassed several female employees.

The French sports magazine published a six-page investigation quoting comments from anonymous former and current employees, and inappropriate text messages that Le Graët allegedly sent to the women. So Foot also described an alleged toxic culture at the federation.

In a statement, Oudéa-Castéra said she took note of what Le Graët had said at their meeting.

She said it is “imperative that the FFF continues its activities with absolute respect for all employees, regardless of their hierarchical position."

The minister also called on the federation to "actively ensure prevention and fight against all forms of discrimination and violence, including sexist and sexual violence.”

Le Graët said he would provide the inspection mission with all recent reports about the FFF especially those regarding his management “in the greatest transparency,” the statement said.

Le Graët, who is 80, has not publicly reacted to the accusations. In an interview with L’Equipe newspaper this week, he brushed off rumors that he could retire after the 2022 World Cup before the end of his mandate, which is set to expire in 2024.

“If my health remains stable, if I’m well, there is absolutely no reason for me to stop,” he said. “I’m very good at my job and everyone likes me. I’m lucky to be appreciated.”

With the Paris 2024 Olympics looming, the football federation is not the only one rocked by accusations of harassment and bullying.

Last month, the sports minister suspended the 2023 Rugby World Cup chief executive Claude Atcher.

The tournament starts in September next year in Paris.

An internal investigation at the request of Oudéa-Castéra showed “alarming managerial practices" and "the suffering of some employees.” A final decision regarding Atcher's position was to be made at a later date pending work inspection and disciplinary proceedings.

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The Associated Press