Football: Noël Le Graët, a president still on borrowed time

Three days after the opening by the Paris public prosecutor’s office of an investigation into moral and sexual harassment following a report made by the auditors of the General Inspectorate for Education, Sport and Research (Igesr) , the executive committee of the French Football Federation (Comex) met again on Thursday 19 January.

A weakened position

Officially a “information point on governance” was on the agenda for this meeting by videoconference. Currently in the West Indies, the president of the French Football Federation (FFF), Noël Le Graët, did not attend the session. Weakened by numerous controversies and little phrases as well as accusations of sexist behavior vis-à-vis former employees, the former socialist mayor of Guingamp had been forced to step back on January 11, after a a previous extraordinary meeting of the Comex, just after sweeping declarations concerning the icon of French football and sport Zinedine Zidane.

The judicial development of the beginning of the week, with the investigation entrusted to the brigade for the repression of delinquency against the person (BRDP) has darkened a little more the future of Noël Le Graët and his chances of regaining his prerogatives.

Strong pressure on Comex members

The boss of French football, for his part, denied the accusations, attacking, in a press release on Tuesday, January 17, organized leaks “through the press” and castigating a “administrative investigation, obviously in charge”for which he did not have “the opportunity to put forward his observations in defence”. He also denounced the “political interference and pressure” of the government.

Among the people targeted by Noël Le Graët, the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra. “Noël Le Graët is a litigant like any other. He is free to organize his defense as he wishes, but his attempts at diversion will not fool anyone. I will not let myself be blamed”she replied.

Both internally and outside the FFF, calls for the resignation of the president are increasing. Such a decision “would be an extremely positive signal sent to all the victims”had thus launched the Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Isabelle Lonvis-Rome, Monday, January 16 on the Public Senate channel.

Last reprieve for the leader

If the former president of “En avant de Guingamp” does not resolve to hand over on his own, the room for maneuver of the Comex remains weak: the vast majority of its members come from the list that Noël Le Graët presented for his last re-election, in March 2021.

If it refuses to step aside, the great fear of elected officials is above all to see the federal assembly convened by a quarter of its members in order to dismiss the Comex as a whole. Conversely, a voluntary resignation would keep the body in place, allowing Vice-President Philippe Diallo, who has been acting since the retirement of Noël Le Graët, to remain in charge until the federal assembly scheduled for June. .

Jean-Michel Aulas, president of Olympique Lyonnais and influential member of Comex, judged in the columns of The TeamWednesday 18 January, that he was “worrying that not a day goes by without a new development taking place”. While judging, however, “premature to take a position” as long as “the report of the Ministry of Sports has not been released”.

This report must be sent to the FFF at the end of January. “The Comex will meet a few days later to focus entirely on the consequences of the audit, which takes us around mid-February”, explained to AFP Éric Borghini, member of the Comex and president of the federal commission of referees. The French football body will therefore have a fortnight to formulate written answers. A final reprieve for its 81-year-old leader.



Noël Le Graët, strong but disavowed man of French football

” Ashamed “, “disgusted”, “odious character” : since Sunday, the virulent reactions multiply with regard to the president of the French Football Federation (FFF), Noël Le Graët, after the latter made unkind remarks towards the former footballer Zinedine Zidane, during a TV show.

This avalanche of comments, added to other cases in which he is implicated, prompted the leader to convene the executive committee of the FFF, Wednesday, January 11. The meeting ended with the decision to withdraw Noël Le Graët from the presidency of the French Football Federation. A scathing disavowal for the one who had been at the head of French football for more than a decade.

Le Graët, Laporte… How to change the governance of sports federations?

Born in Bourbriac (Côtes-d’Armor), ten kilometers from Guingamp, to a working mother in agricultural machinery and a truck driver father, Noël Le Graët began his career as a teacher, then was a tax official and representative of commerce, for which he criss-crossed the country.

Successes with EA Guingamp

Back in his native region, he took over the reins of his city’s football club, En avant Guingamp (EAG). A team of amateur players, playing in the regional division, the EAG reached national level under the presidency of Noël Le Graët.

As soon as he arrived in 1972, he put the club in debt by buying a stadium and his team enjoyed a glorious career in the Coupe de France in 1973. “The Coupe de France is a wonderful adventure, because it allows a modest amateur club to distinguish itself each year”, then tells the young leader of 32 years in a report on the Guingampaise epic. Twenty years later in 1991, when he left the management of the club, it was comfortably installed in the second level of French football.

Noël Le Graët has also established himself in the business world. In the 1980s, he set up his frozen products company, which bears his name, and bought a dozen local companies. A double hat of club and business leader to which he adds that of mayor. From 1995 to 2008, he remained for two terms at the head of the town of Guingamp, of 7,000 inhabitants, under the colors of the Socialist Party (PS).

Beyond his city, the leader is trying his luck in the football authorities. From 1991 to 2000, he directed the Professional Football League (LFP). It is he who will then be the first to file a complaint during the vast case of match-fixing Marseille-Valenciennes, in 1993.

Several controversies

His character of “strong head”as described by the newspaper The world in a portrait, makes him climb the ladder of the highest authority of French football. Initially as vice-president (2005-2011), in charge of economic issues, then president of the French Football Federation (FFF) since 2011, assuring each of his terms that it will be the last.

In more than ten years at the head of the FFF, Le Graët stacks up several hazardous exits in the media. “The racist phenomenon in sport and in football in particular does not exist, or hardly exists”, he assures the microphone of BFM in 2020. The president also refuses to stop matches in the event of homophobic chants, as well as the wearing of rainbow-colored armbands during the last World Cup in Qatar. Recently, several testimonies accuse him of sending serious SMS and of having inappropriate behavior towards employees of the federation.

A “toxic culture” at the FFF

As a manager and leader experienced in the exercise, the Breton has a network of trusted personalities, from the coach Didier Deschamps, who boasts a tandem “head coach” harmonious, to the former minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, via the general secretary of the FFF, Florence Hardouin.

The duo at the head of the FFF is however questioned by several investigations, including that of the American daily New York Times and another from the French magazine SoFoot. Both media describe a “toxic culture” within the institution, by narrating facts of ” bullying “, of “sexist language” and other inappropriate attitudes on the part of officials.

If he were to resign, the 81-year-old could still cling to one last seat: he is one of the representatives of the European federation (UEFA), within the International Football Federation (Fifa).



Le Graët, Laporte… How to change the governance of sports federations?

► “The rather conservative world of sport is difficult to move”

William Gaspariniprofessor of sociology and sports sciences at the University of Strasbourg, specialist in sports governance

“The difficulties experienced by Presidents Noël Le Graët and Bernard Laporte in their football and rugby federations obviously raise the question of the evolution of governance within these institutions. But it is a cyclic questioning. In 2021, the renewal of presidents after the pandemic had already been the subject of a debate on the age of leaders and feminization… which had not prevented the broad re-election of Noël Le Graët, at 79 years old. The average age of sports leaders is still 64, although some federations have experienced a slight rejuvenation. In the end, there are only two women presidents out of 36 Olympic federations.

The question of the opacity of decision-making also comes up often, as does the absence of a limit to the number of terms served by the same president. These managerial techniques from another age appear to be out of step with the needs of more modern governance. The methods of internal appointment are also to be reviewed, because the elections often reveal a formal democracy, theoretical more than real. The cooptation system generally lacks transparency. In a general assembly of a departmental or regional committee, elected by the clubs, we often always find the same people, those who have time and are retired, out of step with the mass of young graduates. But without them, often volunteers, it must also be emphasized that the associative movement would not work.

Can the state reform this governance? We see it with the Le Graët case, he can actually demand accountability, since it is the State which delegates public service to the federations. But the latter are also very attentive to their autonomy and the State cannot interfere too much in their affairs. Above all, he cannot afford a general crisis with the sports movement within two years of the Olympic Games. In the case of football, the ministry is therefore calling on the authorities to move, in this case the executive committee of the federation, but I do not believe that the government is ready to go further.

He knows, however, that France is also watched with the organization of the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and the Games in Paris in 2024, and therefore he cannot let the image of sport continue to deteriorate. But the ridge line is hard to find. The rather conservative sports world is difficult to move. Ideally, the reform should come from the base, from athletes and clubs. But sport is not the sector of commitment and activism. So I don’t really believe it. »

► “The State cannot intervene in the internal management of a federation”

Bernard FoucherDoctor of Laws and President of the Federal Ethics Committee for French Rugby

“You have to keep in mind that the federations are associations under the 1901 law. The French Football Federation has its statutes, its members, like any association. The difficulty is that sport is a public service, which therefore comes under state management. The latter delegates its power to the federations, but retains a right of inspection, a power of supervision. The whole ambiguity is knowing how to combine the autonomy of associations and the powers that the state has. I believe that the difficulty lies in this duality.

The State officially recognizes associations and federations through approvals and delegations. It can impose a common framework so that the statutes of the federations conform to a standard statute. And, to obtain the delegation and the approval, it is necessary that the statutes are in conformity with the standard statute which the State imposes. The only thing that the State can do is therefore withdraw the approval and consider that the federation it wishes to sanction is no longer recognized as the depository of the right conferred on it by the State. But doing that is the atomic bomb assured. Furthermore, the State cannot intervene in the internal management of a federation. Only members of the federation can.

The law of March 2, 2022, aimed at democratizing sport in France, sought to impose more democratic governance on federations through these standard statutes. In particular with a limitation of mandates, the creation of ethics committees or the prevention of conflicts of interest. The federations are brought, if they want to preserve their approval, to be always in conformity with their statute.

Furthermore, each federation can adopt its own provisions without waiting for the law. There are systems that preceded what the law of 2022 imposed in terms of prevention. In the event of a problem, the ethics committee could intervene, but it all depends on how it works, which is specific to each federation. Regarding the rugby ethics committee, we do not have the possibility of making binding decisions. What we can do is give opinions, recommendations, injunctions, like asking someone to step back. You can also go to the Disciplinary Committee.

This is a real subject and it is an object of reflection with the State and the Minister of Sports: how to improve the functioning and the role of the ethics committees? The law made these mandatory in 2022, but how are they made? Are they really independent, with a minimum of power? It varies a lot from one federation to another. »



Football: Noël Le Graët, a president surrounded by business

“I don’t care, he can go where he wants” : these words of the president of the French Football Federation (FFF) Noël Le Graët, addressed to the former footballer Zinédine Zidane, provoked strong reactions from the world of sport and politics. This large-scale controversy is in addition to the cases of sexual harassment and dysfunctions in which the president of the FFF is put in case, while he is auditioned Tuesday, January 10 by the mission responsible for inspecting the institution.

► Messages of a sexual nature

“It’s very simple, he jumps on anything that moves”testified an employee in a survey of the magazine SoFoot on the dysfunctions of the federation and the attitudes of its president, published last September. The survey mentions these “sexual invitations” addressed by the former president of the Guingamp football club to employees of the FFF. Since then, other testimonies of employees who have received grave messages or who have been approached by Noël Le Graët have been reported in the media.

Beyond these testimonies, the article by SoFoot put on the spotlight “a toxic and hostile atmosphere towards women” at the FFF. A formula taken from a hearing report to the industrial tribunal, during a case of sexual harassment on the part of the financial director of the federation.

► Racism in stadiums

Footballers are regularly targeted with racist insults and shouting in stadiums or on the Internet. Kylian Mbappé paid the price on social networks, after his failure in the penalty shootout, in the round of 16 of Euro 2021 against Switzerland.

Asked about this wave of racist insults, Noël Le Graët tempers: “You know, when a black player scores a goal, the whole stadium is standing”. Before continuing: “The racist phenomenon in sport and in football in particular, does not exist, or hardly exists”. This outing had provoked strong reactions, especially from the star striker of the France team. Despite this context of multiplication of insults in the stadiums, no measure has been put in place by the FFF.

► Inaction on homophobia

Homophobia, also present in stadiums, on banners and in supporters’ songs, is also one of the current challenges of football institutions. Several sports personalities thus regularly call for measures to deal with it, such as stopping matches, as the referee is authorized to do in the event of racist songs.

But unlike this case, “stoppage of matches (Editor’s note: to deal with homophobic acts) Does not interest me “, had declared the president of the FFF on franceinfo in 2019. “I would stop a match for racist cries, I would stop a match for a fight, incidents if there is a danger in the stands”.

► Management criticized

In the aftermath of the France team’s coronation at the 2018 World Cup, the federation, which is also a company of around 300 employees, found itself at the heart of several cases of poor personnel management. Some “management methods”inappropriate behavior and unfair dismissals led to the appointment of an internal mediator.

Despite these internal problems, relayed to the New York Times, “Noël Le Graët ensures that things are not as serious as some executives claim”, indicates the article. The mediator, he turned out to be close to the general manager of the FFF, Florence Hardouin, whose management is also questioned by these executives.



Controversial remarks by Noël Le Graët: the FFF must “take its responsibilities”, according to the Minister of Sports

French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra on Monday January 9 called on the executive committee (Comex) of the French Football Federation to ” take his responsibilities “ following the controversial statements of its president Noël Le Graët concerning Zinédine Zidane, without explicitly asking for the resignation of the leader.

“It is important that the Comex of the French Football Federation takes the full measure of the situation, in a time of exchange that I invite it to have”declared Amélie Oudéa-Castéra during a press conference at the headquarters of the ministry.

“Situations where it breaks”

On Sunday, Noël Le Graët had discourteous words towards Zinédine Zidane on RMC, sparking an avalanche of indignant reactions. “I don’t care, he can go where he wants “, said the 81-year-old leader, when asked about Zidane’s future, that he would not have “didn’t even pick up the phone” if he had shown interest in the position of coach of the Blues. Faced with the controversy, Noël Le Graët apologized personally Monday in a press release.

“There are eminent personalities within the Comex who have demonstrated their value, their efficiency, their vision and their sense of responsibility” capable of “to put this Federation back on the right track”, added the Minister during her press conference. She had started with a violent charge against Noël Le Graët, making the observation “of a bankruptcy on the function of representation with words that are seriously failing”.

“I don’t want these situations where it’s tripping, she launched. He got us used to these exits from the road. I think we all have in mind what has been said in recent years, words that minimized the risks, sometimes the significance of the phenomena of racism and homophobia in football, which may have shocked communities. and “also harm the image of our country and offend the French”.

“Critical Moment”

Concerning the audit and control mission carried out by the Ministry of Sports to clarify the malfunctions at the FFF, the Minister specified that a section concerning “HR, budgetary and financial issues” would be added to those relating to the managerial practices of the Federation and the fight against sexual and gender-based violence.

While Noël Le Graët and the director general of the FFF, Florence Hardouin, must be heard on Tuesday, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra announced that she wanted to bring forward the restitution of the conclusions of the audit to ” at the end of January “instead of February 15.

“The Comex will have material on the behavior of the president, she clarified. We are at a critical moment in the future of this federation. I consider that the employees and the great players deserve better than what they have today at the head of this federation. » Finally, the Minister of Sports indicated that President Emmanuel Macron had been ” disappointed “ and ” uneven “ by the comments made about Zinédine Zidane.



World Cup 2022: for the FFF and Noël Le Graët, the expectation of a good deal

Noël Le Graët is having a good time in Doha. And not only because the President of the French Football Federation enjoys the five-star services of the Raffles and Fairmont hotels where he is staying, all expenses paid by the International Football Federation (Fifa) of which he is a member of the Council, representative of the UEFA re-elected by acclamation in 2020. The Breton can forget under the Qatari sun the dark clouds that have accumulated in Paris in recent months, from these accusations of sexual harassment to the bickering with Florence Hardouin, the general manager of the FFF via the audit commissioned by the Ministry of Sports on the governance of the institution.

Of all that, “I’ll take care of it when I get back”, he launches in an interview with Figaro this Wednesday, December 7. In the meantime, he can savor the journey of a winning French team, but also refine his group image in unison. “We have been here for three weeks, there has been no change of mood. It’s rare “, emphasizes Noël Le Graët. Who suddenly braids even more often than usual laurels to Didier Deschamps, affirming his wish that ” rest “ in office the one whose contract ends at the end of the World Cup.

Noël Le Graët cares about his coach appointed ten years and five months earlier, more than a faithful ally, a friend. The further the Blues go in Qatar, the more the legitimacy, already indisputable, of Didier Deschamps reflects on the federal boss. At almost 81 years old, unstoppable or nearly so, in the event of the second world title to be brought to his balance sheet.

Turning the Covid page

In the meantime, the course set is a qualification in the semi-finals, which would not only flatter the egos and federal politics, but would advantageously abound the finances of the FFF. The Qatar operation is already a good deal. For a quarter-finalist, the Fifa endowment, including preparation costs, reaches 17.5 million euros. By adding some ticketing revenue that the FFF can collect, the federal portfolio is already weighted with 20 million euros. Enough to cover the costs and generate a small margin.

But a semi-final would bring an additional 7.6 million euros. And a title would ensure the FFF a total of 40 million euros (32.5 million in 2018). Which would make it possible to definitively turn the page on the Covid, and two years on the wire with in addition the bad blow of an early elimination at Euro 2021 (in the round of 16). Over the previous financial year (2021-2022), the accounts of the FFF showed a positive balance of €861,000. It will be much more comfortable if the Blues go after their dream in Doha.



Noël Le Graët widely re-elected at the head of the FFF

The menhir of French football Noël Le Graët was renewed on Saturday for four years at the head of the Federation he has led since 2011, a new success for impervious to the health crisis and the attacks of his competitors.

The “Prepare” remains in control. For the third time after 2012 and 2017, Noël Le Graët was largely re-elected president of the French Football Federation (FFF), which he has led since 2011. The 79-year-old Breton was declared the winner on Saturday in the first round at 73 % of the votes of the Federal Assembly, against 25% to his historic rival, the lawyer and former leader of the Professional League (LFP) Frédéric Thiriez, and 2% to the businessman and club advisor Michel Moulin .

Campaign focused on continuity

Arrived in 2011 to restore the image of a Federation soiled by the Knysna affair at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the former mayor of Guingamp, who cast doubt on his intentions to run for a new term, therefore leaves for a round, certainly the last.

“We are ready, as soon as we have the key, to reopen the stadiums, so that we can find a life again”, he assured the Assembly, placing the health crisis and the Covid-19 as “Priority of priorities”.

Without having upset those around him to lead a campaign focused on continuity, experience and his record in the face of the health crisis, the Breton entrepreneur, traditionally widely supported by professional football, has also been able to seduce the amateur world.


This represented 63% of the votes of the Federal Assembly and its 207 members cast out of 218 in total, made up of the presidents of regional and district leagues, as well as other delegates from local authorities and clubs.

Meeting by videoconference for health reasons, the Federal Assembly has apparently been convinced by its wish to now open “The period of the reconquest”, that of licensees, educators and volunteers after a sharp drop following the Covid-19 crisis, as he told AFP in the final sprint of the campaign.

Public slip-ups

Nor his few public slippages, as when he said, about the deleterious climate among the Blue, that they could “Pulling your hair” as long as they won, nor the criticisms of his internal management of the “3F” considered authoritarian by its detractors, were not enough for its adversaries.

“Crying is easy. Providing solutions is much more complicated ”, he launched during the Assembly, urging, “In these difficult times”, to be “Present, positive” in front of people “Who criticize and do not want it to work”.

Prepare for inheritance

The lawyer with the famous mustache Frédéric Thiriez (68), supported by Basile Boli and Jean-Pierre Papin, had not mince words against the leader, accused “To suffocate” the amateur world and “To no longer master your language”.

But the strong man of French football, architect of the second star won by the Blues at the 2018 World Cup and at the origin of the appointment of coach Didier Deschamps, was able to remain unperturbed in the face of the attacks, believing that he had “No lessons to be learned from anyone”, while sportingly, the three major selections (male, female, Espoirs) are qualified for the Euro.

Recovered from lymphoid leukemia announced before the 2018 World Cup, “NLG” said to himself ” in fine fettle “ to continue the adventure, always preferring to talk about“Experience” rather than age, when he will be in his eighties in December.

A passing of the baton?

Will he go to the end of his term? The ground is groomed for his succession, with in the front line his faithful among the faithful, Marc Keller, president of Strasbourg, even Jean-Michel Aulas, the boss of the Olympique Lyonnais. Both will remain members of the Executive Committee of the FFF, to which they were renewed for four years. But a potential handover at mid-term was mentioned …

In the meantime, Le Graët seems determined not to change anything in the current governance of his Federation, despite internal shocks in recent years, in particular relating to the managerial methods of the Director General Florence Hardouin. Continuity, until the end.