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.