Football: facing business, Le Graët expected at the ministry

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Paris (AFP) – A “moment of exchange” with heavy files two months from the World Cup: Noël Le Graët is expected Friday at the Ministry of Sports, when the boss of the French Football Federation is faced with embarrassing press information on his management and his behavior with employees.

If the Minister of Sports Amélie Oudéa-Castéra asked the 80-year-old leader and his general manager, Florence Hardouin, for a meeting that looks like a summons, it is to discuss “different subjects”, from the outbursts of supporters to the energy transition by attending the next World Cup in Qatar (November 20-December 18). But perhaps also because the news required it.

“I don’t receive them to have tea, I don’t receive them to be told that everything is fine. I receive them because I need to listen to what they have to say to me”, declares the minister in an interview published Thursday evening on the Parisian website.

Last week, the management but also the personality of the Breton were heavily criticized in an article in the monthly So Foot evoking, on the strength of anonymous testimonies, the sending by Le Graët of SMS of a sexual nature to employees of the FFF.

The Federation reacted Thursday, after the meeting of its executive committee, by announcing the filing of a complaint “for defamation against the magazine So Foot because of the seriously defamatory accusations” of the article.

“I am not minimizing anything that has been returned by So Foot,” said Amélie Oudéa-Castéra to Parisian.

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No speeches from the minister or the boss of the FFF are expected after their interview on Friday, scheduled before 10:00 a.m. according to the ministerial agenda.

The case, if proven, is thorny for the “3F”, set up by Le Graët after the nightmare of the Blues strike in Knysna at the 2010 World Cup, and crowned with the planetary coronation eight years later in Moscow.

“Inaction” on harassment

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

For its part, the union of professional players UNFP deplored the “inaction” of the Federation in the fight against harassment, “sexual or not”. He hopes that Friday’s meeting can be “an opportunity to put an end to harassment, this plague of French football”.

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

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

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Arrived in 2011 and re-elected in 2021 for a new mandate, Le Graët has for him to have presided over the burst of the French men’s team, thanks to the faithful duo he forms with Deschamps, while restoring federal finances via a record contract with the equipment supplier Nike.

Women’s practice has also developed, with a soaring number of licensees, despite the failures of Les Bleues at the 2019 World Cup at home (quarter-finals) then at the Women’s Euro (half-finals) last summer.

Risky outings

His detractors, for their part, evoke an authoritarian exercise of power, a lack of interest in amateur football, which he contests, or even a governance undermined by conflicts around the divisive Florence Hardouin.

On the communication side, “NLG” was guilty of risky outings by minimizing the problem of homophobia in stadiums or racism in football, which “does not exist or hardly exists” according to him. His statement with sexist overtones on the dissensions between Blues who “can pull their hair out” as long as they win, also made waves.

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But the “Menhir”, founding CEO of the Le Graët group (780 employees), specializing in fishing, canned food and frozen foods, remains unfazed: recovered from lymphoid leukemia announced in 2018, he brushed aside the possibility of passing the hand in office.

“I have no intention of quitting at all. If my health remains stable, if I’m fine, there’s absolutely no reason for me to quit. I’m fine at my job and everyone likes me. I’m lucky to be appreciated,” he told the daily L’Equipe.

Football: facing business, Le Graët expected at the ministry