The president of the French Football Federation has resigned from his position just a month after being suspended following sexual harassment allegations.
After an urgent meeting in January among the FFF executive committee Noel Le Graet was initially suspended following a week of high controversy, with vice-chairman Philippe Diallo named as an acting interim.
Le Graet has now stood down, the FFF confirmed on Tuesday, having been in the role since 2011.
‘Noel Le Graet announced… to the Executive Committee of the French Football Federation his decision to step down from his position,’ the FFF said in a statement.
‘Philippe Diallo, vice-president, will act as interim president of the FFF until June 10, 2023, the date of the next federal assembly.’
Noel Le Graet has resigned from his role as French Football Federation president
Former vice chairman Philippe Diallo had been named as the acting interim to replace Le Graet
He initially sparked a fierce response in French media after publicly denouncing the managerial abilities of national legend Zinedine Zidane.
Days later, allegations of sexual harassment caused the president to face a severe backlash and has now led to his suspension following an urgent meeting of the FFF executive committee. Le Graet has denied wrongdoing.
French football has been in turmoil recently despite the national side reaching their fourth World Cup final in the last seven editions of the tournament, losing to Argentina in Qatar last December.
The French women’s team coach, Corinne Diacre, has also been under fire.
Team captain Wendie Renard said last week she would not play at this year’s Women’s World Cup. According to a report in French multimedia outlet RMC Sport, Renard said she will not play for the national side as long as Diacre is in charge.
Fellow internationals Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani also said they were taking a step back from the national team.
Le Graet’s suspension came after a sports agent accused him of improper conduct over several years, saying he only showed her sexual interest.
In an interview with L’Equipe, 37-year-old Sonia Souid claimed Le Graet made repeated approaches towards her between 2013 and 2017.
She said that while she wanted to develop a business relationship with Le Graet to promote women’s soccer, he was more interested in leaving messages on her voicemail late in the evening to invite her to drink champagne.
The allegations came just days after the 81-year-old was highly criticised for his treatment of French football legend Zidane.
Le Graet had previously been dismissive of Zinedine Zidane’a abilities as a manager
Sports agent Sonia Souid, 37, said Le Graet treated her like a ‘piece of candy’
Le Graet appeared on French radio station RMC discussing whether Didier Deschamps would continue as France boss following their defeat in the 2022 World Cup final by Argentina in Qatar, and appeared dismissive of the manager who won three successive Champions League finals with Real Madrid.
‘I wouldn’t even have taken his call,’ said Le Graet. ‘To tell him what? “Hello sir, don’t worry. Look for another club. I just agreed a contract with Didier”.
‘It’s up to him what he does. It’s not my business. I’ve never met him and we’ve never considered parting with Didier.’
Deschamps has now agreed a contract extension until 2026 but Le Graet’s harsh comments about Zidane, who scored a brace in France’s 1998 World Cup triumph, touched a nerve with players and pundits.
France star Kylian Mbappe wrote on Twitter that ‘Zidane is France, we don’t disrespect the legend like that.’
France’s sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera demanded an apology for Le Graet’s ‘shameful lack of respect.’
In response, Le Graet said: ‘I would like to apologise for these remarks, which absolutely do not reflect my views nor my consideration for the player he was and the coach he has become.
‘I gave an interview to [French radio station] RMC that I should not have given because they were looking for controversy by opposing Didier and Zinedine Zidane, two greats of French football.’
Le Graet, pictured in 2017, stands down following 12 years in his role as president
France’s sports minister 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.
In addition to his role at the French soccer federation, Le Graet also has been a member of the FIFA Council since being appointed by UEFA in May 2019. The position pays $250,000 (£207,000) annually.
Le Graet is currently a candidate for another four-year term on FIFA’s ruling committee. He is being challenged for the seat by Portuguese soccer federation president Fernando Gomes. The election is set for April 5, when UEFA member nations meet in Lisbon.
Le Graet’s candidacy must pass a FIFA-run eligibility and integrity check. He can stand for election despite UEFA imposing an age limit of 70 for candidates to its own executive committee.