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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

French football chief investigated over sexual harassment allegations

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French football federation president Noel Le Graet is facing an investigation after allegations of “sexual and moral harassment” were made against him by a female sports agent.

In a message to The Associated Press, the Paris prosecutor’s office said the investigation was opened on Monday following a report by the General Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research.

The investigation will be carried out by a special police unit dedicated to crimes against individuals.

It was launched after sports agent Sonia Souid accused Le Graet of improper conduct over several years, saying he was only interested in her sexually.

Ms Souid said in an interview with L’Equipe sports daily that Le Graet repeatedly tried to approach her from 2013-17.

The 81-year-old agreed last week to step back from his duties as president of the federation following an emergency executive committee meeting.

Protesters display placards denouncing alleged improper conduct over several years by the president of the French football federation, Noel Le Graet

Le Graet has faced several claims of sexual harassment and the federation is the target of an investigation ordered by French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera.

Le Graet, who has also been criticised this month for perceived disrespect toward France football great Zinedine Zidane, has agreed to step away from his role until the audit’s findings have been fully reviewed by the executive committee, likely by the end of January. Until then, he is being replaced in an interim role by federation vice president Philippe Diallo.

Ms Oudea-Castera ordered an investigation into the federation in September after the body said it would file a defamation lawsuit against So Foot magazine, which reported that Le Graet allegedly harassed several female employees.

The French magazine published a six-page investigation quoting anonymous former and current employees, and inappropriate text messages that Le Graet allegedly sent to the women.

Le Graet was re-elected to a four-year term last March. He is currently a candidate for another four-year term on the Fifa Council, the international football body’s decision-making committee.

Ms Souid, who said she first met Le Graet in 2013, told L’Equipe that he texted her to ask her out or tell her he missed her. Ms Souid said he never went too far verbally but made clear she should have sex with him to move her ideas forward.

“He never looked at me like an agent but like a piece of candy,” Ms Souid said.

She said she was hurt by Le Gret’s attitude and that she thought about ending her career as an agent. Asked whether Le Graet helped her professionally at some point, Ms Souid said he helped her find the phone number of coach Corinne Diacre and that he tried to help her with business class plane tickets for France player Amandine Henry.

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