new testimonies question the behavior of Noël Le Graët and the management of its general manager

« Careful, that’s none of the PPDA business! » The witnesses we met – all former or current employees of the FFF – want to tell us straight away: the boss of the French Football Federation (FFF) should not be compared to the former presenter of TF1’s 8 p.m. , accused by many women of rape and sexual assault. « But just because it’s less serious doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it“, estimates a former executive of the FFF. Women, and some men, in post at the Federation in recent years, have therefore entrusted themselves to the investigation cell of Radio France. For the moment, all have preferred to remain anonymous, either because they are still working in the world of sport, or because they hope to return to it.Anonymous testimonies therefore, but cross-checked and detailed.

So what are we talking about? Of a behaviorinappropriate » for some, « harassment » for others. Different stories and feelings. Sonia* left the FFF a few years ago. « The investigation of So Foot ** disturbed me“, she tells us. “She brought me back to buried things, things left unsaid.« If she agrees to talk to us today, it’s »because this kind of practice must stop« .

« With me, Noël Le Graët was really clumsyshe remembers. He told me he wanted to take me home. He didn’t text me. At that time, he was not a telephone pro. But these were repeated invitations to come and dine with him.« Sonia says that when she wanted to take stock of her files with the president of the FFF, « it was never possible during the day« . »He told me ‘lunch I can’t, I only have my dinners free’.“She says that one day Noël Le Graët said to her:”If something happens between us, don’t worry, no one will know. » « Some said ‘oh she’s here [à la FFF, NDRL] because Le Graët likes it. But it wasn’t a couch promotion! I was trying to handle the situation as best I could.“When we ask Sonia how she would qualify the behavior of Noël Le Graët, she answers:”He is an old gentleman who did not see that the world had changed. He has inappropriate remarks and jokes. As it is the president, you laugh yellow. It’s not easy to manage.« 

Sonia also wants to testify about the role « ambiguous“Played, according to her, in this affair by the current number two of the FFF, Florence Hardouin. “She also received repeated and tendentious invitations from Noël Le Graët. We talked about it together. » Which did not subsequently prevent the general manager « to want to fire meshe says. Florence Hardouin once told me ‘if you don’t kill your N-1, your N-1 will kill you.’ I quickly understood his state of mind.« Today, Sonia flourishes far from the FFF, which she judges »dysfunctional« . »At the FFF, the soup is good and the salaries are high. That’s why some stay« , she says. Estelle* makes a similar observation. She held a high position in the Federation for several years, before leaving the ship. She too claims to have been the victim of harassment.

« There are huge governance problems and a general silence on a number of issues such as sexual and moral harassment. »

« In 2016, I had to go with President Le Graët on an official tripshe tells us. During the preceding week, he harassed me by calling me almost every evening to tell me that he was looking forward to going with me. He tells me that I have to put on a skirt on the day of the trip. Obviously I refuse, I put on pants. On the plane, I’m next to him, he puts his hand on my thigh. I pushed him away saying ‘president, we’re not going to start the ride like this‘ »Once we got there, « Noël Le Graët asks me to go up to his hotel roomcontinues Estelle. He wanted me to install a VPN for him on his Ipad. I told her to come down to the lobby so I could take care of it » Back in Paris, to put an end to the attacks of her boss, Estelle recounts having said to him: « President, I prefer your wife« . »After that, he stopped.« 

Asked about these accusations, Noël Le Graët sent us this answer via his communications director. « I strongly contest the alleged ‘inappropriate’ behavior towards employees within the FFF« , writes the boss of the Federation. « I have always maintained respectful relationships with my colleagues in an atmosphere of mutual trust. These false and malicious anonymous allegations are clearly intended to harm me professionally and personally.« 

Just like Sonia, Estelle – whom we have seen on several occasions point role »trouble » in this case of the general manager of the FFF. « Florence Hardouin was aware of the behavior of the president. She asked me to tell her. I thought she was going to protect me. In fact no, she buried everything » A former senior official of the FFF confirms that « Florence Hardouin knew how Noël Le Graët behaved with women. She herself said, in 2013, that he harassed her. She told me she kept everything [les messages, NDRL].« 

For this former employee, however, « Noël Le Graët is not a pervert. He is a man who likes women and who flirts heavily. To my knowledge he has not committed any assault.« Our witness believes that there is »a generation gap. Noël Le Graët was born before women had the right to vote. He was 25 when they were able to open a bank account. His relationship to women is completely different from what is happening today.« 

Samuel*, a former FFF executive who was close to Florence Hardouin, believes for his part that there is « a sexist climate and misogynistic behavior at the FFF« . To this is added, according to him, « the brutal management of Florence Hardouin. When setting up the PES [plan de sauvegarde de l’emploi, qui s’est soldé par 18 licenciements en 2021, ndlr***]she used the pretext of economic difficulties that did not exist to get rid of all those she no longer wanted, including many women. » According to the financial report of the FFF for the year 2020-2021 (see below), the Federation ended the year 2021 with a surplus of 201,000 euros. 3.3 million euros had been provisioned for the social plan.”If there had not been the PSE, the FFF ended the year with a surplus of 3.5 million euros. There was no need to fire people“, says the former official quoted above.

Extract from the FFF 2020-2021 financial report, in thousands of euros.  (RADIOFRANCE INVESTIGATION UNIT)

Extract from the FFF 2020-2021 financial report, in thousands of euros.  (RADIO FRANCE INVESTIGATION UNIT)

Charlotte *, a former employee of the FFF, makes a fairly similar analysis of management at the Federation. « Yes, I received many dinner invitations from Noël Le Graët, and that’s not normal given the hierarchical relationship we had« , she confides to us. « He has a really borderline behavior. But I never felt his words as threatening. I dodged the invitations and he didn’t hold it against me. We have maintained good relations. » « In my caseexplains the young woman, it was Florence Hardouin’s divisive governance that posed the most problem to me. Either we’re with her or we’re against her« For Charlotte, »Florence Hardouin’s credo is to say that she is a woman who succeeds in a middle of guys » Estelle says: « At the FFF, she wanted to be the only womanSamuel sums it up this way:It’s a kind of couple that has changed. Initially, Le Graët needed Florence Hardouin to take on a certain number of responsibilities. But when she got too close to the France team, he tensed up. Today they hate each other and it rubs off on the whole federation. »

Clémence *, a former director of the FFF tells another episode, which would have taken place at the beginning of 2021. « I was going to leave the FFF. I go to see Le Graët to greet him. In his office, he asks me, embarrassed, if I had told Florence that he had sexually assaulted me at home, pinning me against a wall and putting his hand in my panties. It was wrong. Yes, he was a little heavy with me, especially when he kissed me, but he never attacked me. »

“Florence Hardouin told the president nonsense. She needs to have files on people, or even create some, to establish her power. We are talking about a Le Graët system but she is part of it. « 

Clemence says she has « proposed a meeting of three, with Le Graët and Hardouin to clarify this case of false aggression“but according to her,”the president did not dare« .

Asked about these accusations, Florence Hardouin replied in writing: « I categorically deny the false allegations that are reported to you against me. In general, I will not answer any questions from journalists since, as you know, an audit requested by the Ministry of Sports is in progress.To shed light on the suspicions of sexual and moral harassment hanging over the FFF, the Minister of Sports Amélie Oudéa-Castéra has indeed ordered an audit of the Federation from the General Inspectorate for Education, Sport and (IGESR). The hearings should start very soon. In all likelihood, the report will be submitted after the Football World Cup which begins on November 20. Noël Le Graët has let us know that he is waiting « with serenitythe conclusions of this audit.

So, what do the current employees of the FFF say? At the headquarters of the boulevard de Grenelle federation, it is almost radio silence. A relative of the management, visibly in embarrassment, sends the conversation: « I am absolutely loyal. It’s not for me to tell you anything. » Another source specifies that today there is « anti-harassment training provided to all employees. We also have a referent on these issues. Employees can contact her in complete confidentiality« Visibly skeptical, an employee talks at length about the climate »toxic » who would reign at the FFF. He does not wish to appear in our investigation.

*names have been changed

**The magazine survey SoFoot, published on September 8 and titled “Disenchanted Federation”, revealed that several women had resigned from the FFF in recent years, because they felt “sexually and morally harassed”. The article notably mentioned text messages of a “sexual nature” that Noël Le Graët would have sent to employees. The FFF sued for defamation.

*** Contested by 10 former employees of the FFF, the PSE was canceled by the administrative court of Paris, before being validated on appeal. The applicants appealed to the Council of State. The case will be examined in 2023.

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