Can the Ministry of Sports decide the fate of the federation chairmen?

Noël Le Graët has an appointment on Wednesday 11 January at 11 at the headquarters of the French Football Federation (FFF), of which he is president. On the agenda is an extraordinary business committee where he will be summoned to explain himself after his comments to Zinédine Zidane and accusations of sexual harassment.

“I don’t care, he can go where he wants”had confirmed on Sunday, January 8, that the leader for 81 years, asked about the future of Zinédine Zidane, that he did not want “didn’t even answer the phone” if he had shown interest in the position of coach for the blues.

Faced with the controversy, the former mayor of Guingamp (Côtes-d’Armor) apologized the next day in a press release. On Tuesday, the public accusations by a player’s agent, Sonia Souid, of an urgent and tendentious series of calls, messages and invitations to dinner from Noël Le Graët, between 2013 and 2017, extended the list of complaints overwhelming the president of “3F “.

Even before these latest revelations, Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra opened a press conference on Monday with a violent accusation against the president of the FFF for his remarks about Zinedine Zidane, but not only.

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“He got us used to going out of the way. I think we all have in mind what has been said in recent years, words that minimize the risks, sometimes the significance of the phenomena of racism and homophobia in football, which may have shocked local communities., recalled the minister. The latter emphasized that the head of state, Emmanuel Macron, had been “disappointed” and “uneven” at the latest comments from “NLG”.

The Executive Committee of the FFF, the only one capable of mediating

However, in his speech, the minister was careful not to call for her resignation for a simple reason. The political power does not have the opportunity to dismiss the president of a sports association, as Article L. 131-1 of the Sports Act reminds us: “The purpose of sports associations is to organize the practice of one or more sports disciplines. They operate independently. »

This is why the sports minister of another federation, the rugby union (FFR), has set conditions for Bernard Laporte to remain in the presidency after his conviction for “passive corruption”, “influence trading “And” unlawful taking of interests ” , without obtaining his resignation.

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Interference by the ministry in the FFF would also provoke the wrath of the International Football Federation (FIFA), which prohibits any state intervention. “If we imagine that the French sports minister dismisses the president of the FFF, [la France] may be banned from participating in the next WC. If it were to sack the president of the French Rugby Union, the country could be withdrawn from hosting the World Cup, scheduled for 2023.explains to World Mickaël Terrien, professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Public Administration (Idheap) at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland).

The FFF’s statutes are also very clear; a dismissal procedure can only be initiated by a vote in its federal assembly. During his press conference on Monday, the minister had instructed the executive committee to meet “take the measure” of “bankruptcy” by the chairman of the federation in his role as “representation”.

No power but pressure

Faced with a dysfunctional federation, political power mainly has the power to exert pressure. For the FFF, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra’s action began long before the statements about Zinedine Zidane. The Ministry of Sports had decided on 16 September 2022 to initiate an audit and control mission in FFF after the publication of the magazine. SoFoot of an investigation that revealed several dysfunctions within it, starting with the sending (according to anonymous testimony) of SMS of a sexual nature to employees of Noël Le Graët.

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The Ministry of Sports has other means to act. It can withdraw its approval from a federation and deprive it “his legal existence”, emphasizes Jean-Loup Chappelet, former director of the International Olympic Committee and honorary professor of public management at Idhap at the University of Lausanne. In practice, an association that will no longer be recognized by the state will no longer receive public funding and will have to do without its technical staff. “It’s a bit like a nuclear bomb, even if you have it, you don’t really want to use it”, specifies Mr. Chappelet.

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Twice, however, the Ministry has resorted to this ultimate weapon, on smaller federations than the two giants that are 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, then Minister of Youth and Sports, informed Bernard Garcia, its president, that the approval minister was taken from him. One of the oldest French sports federations, established in 1914, thus lost a disciplinary regulation regarding the fight against doping.

Noël Le Graët’s mandate runs until 2024

More recently, in 2020, the then Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, had asked to resign by the chairman of the Ice Sports Association, Didier Gailhaguet, when the body was hit by a scandal about sexual violence. The “godfather” of skating had been forced to step down.

“When the ministry says it will dismiss Didier Gailhaguet, it is pushed out of the body because the economic model of this small federation depends on direct and indirect subsidies from the state, such as the provision of sports technical advisers [fonctionnaires]which is essential to the organization of this federationexplains Mickaël Terrien. For FFF and FFR, direct grants do not represent much, they have the financial means, through television rights and income from ticket sales in particular, to operate without the ministry. »

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A possible departure of Noël Le Graët, elected until 2024, could therefore only come from himself or from his executive committee if the vast majority of members come from the list he presented in 2021 during his last re-election. In the event of the “resignation of the NLG”, the vice-president of the FFF, Philippe Diallo, close to Florence Hardouin, general manager of the FFF in cold weather with his superior, would become interim president before the appointment of a candidate in the executive committee.

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