Audit denounces French soccer boss Le Graët for harassment
PARIS (AP) — Noël Le Graët no longer has legitimacy to remain as French soccer federation president because his management style and behavior toward women are “incompatible with the exercise of his functions,” a government audit released Wednesday found.
The 81-year-old Le Graët is currently under judicial investigation for alleged sexual and “moral” harassment as part of a probe being carried out by a special police unit dedicated to crimes against individuals.
An audit by the General Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research concluded that Le Graët’s behavior toward women was inappropriate.
“The mission considers that Mr. Le Graët no longer has the necessary legitimacy to manage and represent French soccer,” the audit report said. “It believes that the drifting behavior of Mr. Le Graët is now detrimental to the image of the (federation) and invites the federal authorities to examine this situation in application of the statutory provisions.”
Le Graët was also criticized for the way he runs the federation, with the report blaming him for his “very centralized exercise of power.”
Le Graët, who was separately criticized last month for perceived disrespect toward France soccer great Zinédine Zidane, had agreed to step away from his role until the audit’s findings have been fully reviewed by the federation’s executive committee.
Federation vice president Philippe Diallo has stepped in to handle Le Graët’s duties on an interim basis. It remains unclear if Le Graët will now agree to step down. The federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the audit’s findings.
French sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra ordered the audit into the federation in September after the federation said it would file a defamation lawsuit against So Foot magazine, which reported that Le Graët allegedly harassed several female employees.
The French magazine published a six-page investigation quoting anonymous former and current employees, and revealed inappropriate text messages that Le Graët allegedly sent to the women.
“The mission noted not only comments and text messages from Mr. Le Graët, some of which were ambiguous and others of a clearly sexual nature, but also points to the the late hour of the messages, their repetitive nature and the nature of the recipients — women under his authority and/or in a relationship of dependence,” the audit report said.
Le Graët was re-elected to a four-year term last March.
The hearings conducted by the mission highlighted that Le Graët’s inappropriate remarks may have been “accentuated by the excessive consumption of alcohol.”
Sports agent Sonia Souid, who is among those who have accused Le Graët, said in an interview with L’Equipe sports daily that Le Graët repeatedly tried to approach her from 2013-17.
Souid said Le Graët texted her to ask her out or tell her he missed her. Souid said Le Graët 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,” Souid said.
Souid said she was hurt by Le Graët’s attitude and that she thought about ending her career as an agent.
The audit report, based on more than 100 interviews and analysis of various documents, highlighted other dysfunctions at the federation and noted that its policy against gender-based and sexual violence is “neither effective or efficient.”
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