Noël Le Graët, the president of soccer's French Football Federation (FFF) governing body, has stepped down amid allegations of improper conduct days after he separately made derogatory comments about French soccer legend Zinedine Zidane.
The decision, first reported by French news outlet L’Équipe, was made by the FFF this morning (January 11) at an extraordinary executive committee meeting and will see the body’s vice president Philippe Diallo step up as interim president.
In a statement, the governing body said: “Noël Le Graët, in agreement with the executive committee of the FFF meeting today in Paris, has chosen to withdraw from his duties as president of the federation until the final communication of the audit carried out by the Ministry of Sports, and pending its analysis by the Comex of the FFF.”
The audit in question relates to an investigation ordered by France’s sports minister Amélie Odea-Casera in September over allegations Le Graët had harassed several female FFF employees.
The allegations came via an investigative report by So Foot magazine, which quoted anonymous former and current employees. The report also included inappropriate text messages Le Graët allegedly sent to the employees and allegations of a toxic working culture at the federation.
At the time, the governing body threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against the publication, but Odea-Casera called for an investigation into the claims.
The FFF executive committee also announced it had removed Florence Hardouin from her role as general director as a precautionary measure until the publication of the investigation’s findings into allegations she oversaw a culture of bullying and alcoholism while leading the body. Diallo will also take over the role on an interim basis.
The move caps a disastrous week for the federation, which started with Le Graët hitting the headlines on Monday (January 9) for remarks he made about former Real Madrid coach Zidane, which drew the ire of players, politicians, and the Spanish club.
Zidane was one of the favorites to take over as manager of the French national team if Didier Deschamps stepped down from the job. However, the latter’s contract was extended on Monday after he led the team to the World Cup final in Qatar, which they lost to Argentina last month.
When asked if Zidane, would manage Brazil’s national team instead, Le Graët told RMC: “I don’t give a damn, he can go wherever he wants.
“If Zidane tried to contact me? Certainly not, I wouldn’t even pick up the phone.”
The comments saw Patrick Anton, the head of the FFF’s national ethics committee, call for Le Graët to step down from his role.
Speaking to L’Équipe yesterday (January 10), Anton said: “Le Graet has made comments that show he has lost some of his lucidity. He is a man who is tired, and who needs to move on.
"We need a strong and serene governance, which unfortunately is no longer the case. All season long we have to apply the rules of ethics to leaders – especially district and league presidents – and refer cases to disciplinary committees because they have crossed the line.
"As far as the president of the federation is concerned, while we obviously do not intend to refer the matter to a disciplinary committee, we can only ask him to step down in the best interests of football."
The move also comes shortly after sports agent Sonia Souid accused Le Graët of improper conduct over several years.
In a separate interview with L’Équipe yesterday Souid said Le Graët repeatedly tried to approach her for sexual favors from 2013 to 2017, sending her text messages asking her out, and telling her he missed her.
Souid told the publication that, while Le Graët never explicitly asked her for the favors, he made clear that they would be necessary to move her ideas forward.