can the Ministry of Sports determine the fate of the president of the federation?

Noël Le Graët has an appointment, Wednesday, January 11, at 11​​am, at the headquarters of the French Football Federation (FFF) which he presides over. On the agenda, an extraordinary executive committee where he will be summoned to explain himself after his comments about Zinedine Zidane and allegations of sexual harassment.

“I don’t care, he can go wherever he wants”has confirmed, Sunday, January 8, the 81-year-old leader, questioning the future of Zinédine Zidane, that he will not “Not even picking up the phone” if he shows interest in the Blues coaching post.

In the face of the controversy, the former mayor of Guingamp (Côtes-d’Armor) apologized the following day in a press release. On Tuesday, public accusations from the player’s agent, Sonia Souid, regarding a series of urgent and tendentious calls, messages and dinner invitations from Noël Le Graët, between 2013 and 2017, extended the list of grievances that made the president “3F”.

Even before this latest revelation, the Minister for Sport, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, started a press conference on Monday with accusations of violence against the FFF president over his remarks against Zinedine Zidane, but not only that.

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“He got us used to this road trip. I think we all remember what has been said in recent years, words that minimize the risk, sometimes of the significance of the phenomena of racism and homophobia in football, that may shock society., the minister recalled. The latter stressed that the Head of State, Emmanuel Macron, has ” disappointed “ and “uneven” by the latest statement made by “NLG”.

The FFF executive committee, the only one who can mediate

In his address, however, the minister was careful not to call for his resignation, for a simple reason. Political power has no possibility of removing the president of a sports federation, as article L. 131-1 of the sports code reminds us: “The aim of a sports federation is to regulate the practice of one or more sports disciplines. They operate independently. »

This is the reason why, in another federation, rugby (FFR), the Minister for Sport has set conditions for Bernard Laporte to remain president after his conviction of “passive corruption”, “influence peddling” and “illegal appropriation of interests”, without obtaining his resignation.

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The ministry’s interference in the FFF will also infuriate the International Football Federation (FIFA), which prohibits state intervention. “If we imagine the French minister of sport dismissing the president of the FFF, [la France] may be banned from participating in the next World Cup. If removing the president of the French Rugby Federation, the country could be withdrawn from hosting the World Cup scheduled for 2023.explained to World Mickaël Terrien, professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Public Administration (Idheap) at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland).

The FFF statutes are also very clear; the dismissal procedure can only be initiated by a vote of the federal assembly. In his press conference on Monday, the minister had instructed the executive committee to meet “measure” from “bankrupt” president of the federation in his role as “representation”.

There is no power other than pressure

Facing the dysfunctional federation, political power especially has the power to suppress. As far as FFF is concerned, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra’s action started long before Zinedine Zidane’s statement. The Ministry of Sport has decided, on 16 September 2022, to start an audit and control mission within FFF after it is published by the magazine. So Foot of the investigation which uncovered much of the dysfunction within it, beginning with the sending (according to anonymous testimony) SMS of a sexual nature to employees by Noël Le Graët.

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The Ministry of Sports has another way of acting. It can withdraw its consent from the federation, depriving it ” hers existence of law”, underlines Jean-Loup Chappelet, former International Olympic Committee executive and honorary professor of public management at Idheap University of Lausanne. In practice, federations that are no longer recognized by the State will no longer receive public subsidies and will have to work without their technical staff. “It’s like an atomic bomb, even if you have it, you don’t really want to use it”, determine Mr. Chappellet.

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However, the two times the ministry has used this ultimate weapon, on the smaller federation of the two giants namely FFF and FFR, it is true. In 1998, after more than five years of financial and structural crisis in the French Weightlifting Federation, Marie-George Buffet, Minister of Youth and Sports, informed Bernard Garcia, its president, that the ministerial approval was withdrawn from him. One of the oldest French sports federations, formed in 1914, thereby eliminating disciplinary regulations relating to the fight against doping.

Noël Le Graët’s mandate runs until 2024

Most recently, in 2020, the then sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, had requested the departure from the president of the Ice Sports Federation, Didier Gailhaguet, when his body was exposed to a sexual assault scandal. The “godfather” of figure skating was forced to resign.

“When the ministry said it wanted to dismiss Didier Gailhaguet, it was pushed by the agency because the economic model of this small federation is dependent on direct and indirect subsidies from the State, such as the provision of sports technical advisers. [fonctionnaires]which is very important to the organization of this federationexplains Mickaël Terrien. For FFF and FFR, direct subsidies do not represent much, they have the financial means, through television rights and revenue from ticket sales in particular, to operate without a ministry. »

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The possible departure of Noël Le Graët, who is elected until 2024, can therefore only come from himself or from his executive committee, most of whose members come from the list he presented in 2021 during his last re-election. In the event of the resignation of “NLG”, the vice president of the FFF, Philippe Diallo, close to Florence Hardouin, general manager of the FFF in the cold with his superiors, will become interim president before the appointment of a candidate. in the Executive Committee.

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