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After three and a half months of investigation, the audit responsible for shedding light on managerial practices and harassment at the French Football Federation (FFF) enters its final phase on Monday. The two main suspects, Noël Le Graët and Florence Hardouin, must now present their defense against the charges.
Soon the end of the sad soap opera at the FFF? After three and a half months of investigation, the audit mission on the French Football Federation will enter its final phase with, on Monday, the possibility for Noël Le Graët and Florence Hardouin to respond to the accusations made against them.
The president of the FFF and its director general, both sidelined on January 11, will be able to read the extracts from the preliminary report indicting them and respond to them, within ten days. They alone will have access to the incriminating parts concerning them. In the same way, Philippe Diallo, in his capacity as interim president, may make observations after reading the passages relating to the dysfunctions of the body.
This restricted access to the provisional report of the General Inspectorate for Education, Sport and Research (IGESR) responds to a regulatory provision. In fact, it should also limit any leaks in the press between now and the publication of the definitive and contradictory document, expected in mid-February.
The pressure remains maximum for Noël Le Graët, all-powerful boss of the “3F” since 2011, severely shaken for five months by journalistic investigations, testimonies (mainly anonymous) from women accusing him of sexist and inappropriate behavior, and his own sweeping statements about Zinedine Zidane.
The first storm occurred in early September with a file from the magazine So Foot in which were pointed, pell-mell, the management deemed authoritarian by Florence Hardouin, the “toxic” work atmosphere and accusations of sexual harassment targeting the Breton leader.
These press elements led the Ministry of Sports to announce on September 16 the opening of an audit and control mission “on the management of the Federation and the respect of the obligations attached to it”. This began a month later with the hearing of the main parties concerned.
At 81, Noël Le Graët is going through the most delicate period of his long term, which began on the ruins of the Blues fiasco in Knysna, during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. His solitary management at the head of the Federation, the overwhelming testimonies and his sometimes uncontrolled media outings, as on Zidane, isolated him as never before.
His situation became almost untenable when Sonia Souid, a players’ agent, denounced in the press the insistent attitude of Noël Le Graët on the telephone or during professional meetings: “He told me face to face, in his apartment, very clearly, that if I wanted him to help me, I had to go to the pan.”
This first face-to-face testimony prompted the courts to open an investigation for sexual and moral harassment. “NLG” denied the allegations and castigated the leaks in the press, such as the “numerous interferences and political pressures”.
Towards a resignation of Le Graët?
“Mr. Le Graët had neither the opportunity to read the elements concerning him, nor the opportunity to put forward his observations in defense”, denounced his lawyers.
In recent days, new testimonies have been added, including that of Aline Riera, member of the Comex of the FFF, revealed by L’Équipe, who, during the meeting of January 19, spoke of “heavy words” and ” a repetition of misplaced words” in the past.
The Executive Committee of the FFF, from the list presented by “NLG” during its last re-election in 2021 (for a term of office theoretically running until the end of 2024), pushed the latter to step down on January 11. And decided to lay off Florence Hardouin, general manager since 2013, with disputed working methods.
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Pending the audit, the “DG” did not speak publicly, but his entourage denounced to the newspaper Le Monde “acts of sexual and moral harassment that she suffered from Mr. Le Graët “. Relaunched by AFP, the entourage of the leader did not wish to give more details.
The “government” of French football is now awaiting the conclusions of the audit to adopt a common position. An extraordinary meeting of the “Comex” will be organized once the report has been delivered, with the fate of Noël Le Graët at the heart of the debates.
According to an internal source, the Breton leader assured that he would resign in the event of an unfavorable report. In this hypothesis, Philippe Diallo would retain the bar at least until the Federal Assembly in June.