Return of the audit, departure from Le Graët, financial audit to come… the FFF begins 10 days under very high tension

The inspectors in charge of the audit at the French Football Federation are handing over this Monday, to the various stakeholders, the document ordered by the Ministry of Sports in September. The protagonists will have ten days to provide comments in order to complete this “contradictory” part. This report is eagerly awaited and could have serious consequences for the first sports federation in France. Behind the scenes, on all sides, the media response is being prepared.

He is surrounded but still plays the watch. His holidays in Martinique will not have had the skin of the files, the rumors and the media noises about him. Since its totally lunar release on the RMC antenna at the beginning of January, Noël Le Graët has been going through a period of very strong turbulence. Its fall is inevitable, it remains to know the date. In office since 2011, the 81-year-old Breton still clings to his seat for a few days. Since the beginning of January, the pressure has been so strong that some of his relatives are worried about his state of health.

The report of the audit to the various stakeholders is scheduled for this Monday by mail and electronically. The inspectors in charge of this investigation will have to wait about ten days in order to take note of the observations of Noël Le Graët, Florence Hardouin and the other parties concerned. The final rendering is therefore expected around February 15. As soon as this final audit is revealed, the major maneuvers within the FFF can begin.

After the audit, a more offensive COMEX to push Le Graët to resign?

After the study of this audit, according to our information, COMEX members will try to get Noël Le Graët to resign at the next Executive Committee of the Federation, announced for February 9 (it could be postponed due to the rendering of audit, editor’s note). The report will be difficult for the president of the FFF (withdrawn) and its general manager, Florence Hardouin. “NLG” has always promised to resign if the report is damning. For a few hours, some media have announced that he is now ready to leave his post… but not at any price. Overall, the family realized that he had to stop.

Without this “judicialization” of the audit, Noël Le Graët could keep a tiny hope of a way out. The triggering of Article 40 by inspectors from the General Inspectorate for Education, Sport and Research was the final blow. The Breton leader denies all of the charges against him. According to our information, the IGESR first issued a note to the Paris prosecutor’s office to describe the facts likely to be reprehensible in the hearings they have been conducting for several weeks. In a second step, the inspectors brought the testimonies in order to support the alleged facts. A judicial source specifies that this opening of investigation concerns the FFF as a whole, the investigators are not confined to the name of Noël Le Graët in their investigations.

Also according to our information, the prosecution opened the investigation on the count of “sexual and moral harassment”, considering that the sexist outrages may have been repeated and that in this case, they therefore constitute harassment. The goal for the magistrates is now to see if he had a “system of moral and sexual harassment put in place in the context of work”.

For several days, the defense of the leader has been preparing his counter-attack. The leaks in the press, the testimonies or even the repeated outings of the Minister of Sports are annoying. In a press release sent to BFMTV by his two lawyers, Noël Le Graët had denied “all the criminal charges” against him. He had denounced “the repeated announcements by the press which intervene” while the audit has not yet delivered its conclusions. The report issued by the inspectors on January 13 is also misunderstood in the Le Graët clan. According to the president of the FFF, on January 10, the inspector in charge of the audit would have very clearly stated that there is nothing in the file concerning possible criminal charges. The Breton clan wonders how three days later the IGESR issues a report to justice. Except that in the meantime, on Thursday, Sonia Souid testified before the investigators in charge of the case. A testimony that she had already unveiled on Monday January 9 on the antenna of BFMTV. This story particularly offended the members of the Federation’s executive committee.

A new audit on the finances of the FFF?

One audit can hide another. Whether in private or in front of the cameras, the leaders of the Federation boast of the good financial health of the body. Last year, the revenue of the instance reached a record: 274 million euros. Except that some elements will require further investigation in the coming months. The audit carried out at the FFF in recent weeks had as its main mission to take stock of the management of the body (the management and the accusations of sexual violence revealed by our colleagues from So Foot). A few days ago, the Minister of Sports announced during a press briefing the extension of the scope of action of the inspectors: “Given the investigations in progress and the findings which have already been drawn up by the mission, we have taken the decision to open another part of this mission which will deal with human resources issues, budgetary and financial aspects”.

The IGESR inspectors will discuss this subject in their audit submitted on Monday. Except that these officials do not have enough developed skills in the financial field to review all the actions of the FFF. According to our information, a new audit should be requested in the coming weeks to shed light on the financial management of the FFF in recent years. The Court of Auditors had produced a report on the management of the Federation to the 2.1 million licensees in 2017.

Employees do not forget Florence Hardouin

The climate had already been tense for several months at the Federation. In recent weeks, “it’s like in a series, a beautiful war of clans”, confides an employee of the Boulevard de Grenelle. The audit carried out by inspectors from the General Inspectorate for Education, Sport and Research is eagerly awaited “to highlight a completely outdated management method”. Many employees testified before the investigators. “We are impatiently awaiting the revelations of this audit, I hope it will be up to it, explains a 3F executive. So yes, for several weeks we have been hitting on Le Graët, rightly, but we also want to see what this audit has in store for Florence Hardouin’s human management. A dismissal is difficult to live with, she is going through what she has done to several of our colleagues.” According to our information, Florence Hardouin will be received at the FFF for an interview prior to her dismissal at the end of February.

The climate is deleterious. Some employees are surprised that only one report has been made by the inspection in charge of the audit. Others wonder if the labor inspectorate could not intervene in the coming weeks. The speech of Philippe Diallo, on Thursday after his appointment, had not at all reassured the 300 employees of the FFF. In general, employees have only one thought in mind: to leave the FFF as soon as possible. Some seek advice from employees who have already left, others scrutinize job offers. These dysfunctions within the Federation had, for the most part, been pointed out in an audit carried out in September 2020, and revealed by our colleagues from the World, concerning the governance of the FFF. Recently in Le Monde, Florence Hardouin said she was the victim before the investigators of “moral and sexual harassment”.

And now?

Indoors, the Leagues and the districts are waiting. In the kitchen, the knives are getting sharper, many of them want to put their menu on the FFF menu. Within the Executive Committee of the body, no one wants to follow “NLG” in its fall. On the other hand, a member of the committee takes up the little sentence of Vincent Labrune: “The status quo cannot be a solution for the FFF”. A more democratic and collegial organization appears to be a short-term solution. The idea could be to continue with Philippe Diallo at the head of the Federation, until the end of the current mandate in 2024. But the organization must change. A “democratization” of the Comex is envisaged.

A precise mission for each member, one for the amateur clubs, another for the pros and the French team… This idea, supported by a member of the Comex, can hold water on one condition: everyone must stay his place and not play his personal card. A more collegial organization because some have still not digested the choices without consulting Noël Le Graët on the extension of Didier Deschamps at the head of the Blues or that of Corinne Deacon after the Euro. Behind the scenes, a man will also have his say: Vincent Labrune. The president of the LFP is an ex officio member of the Comex without electoral ambition, but his opinion counts. The latter wants a real professionalization of the first sports Federation of France. A profile close to the professional world therefore appears to be the best solution. It remains to convince the amateur world.

What profile to take the lead of the FFF?

If, as the Minister of Sports expects, the audit report is indeed damning for Le Graët who will resign, Diallo will extend his interim until the next FFF GA on June 10, 2023. The day before this GA, the executive committee will choose from among its members a candidate for the presidency until the end of the current term, i.e. until 2024. Beyond Philippe Diallo, who may wish to further extend his interim, several names may wish to take this coveted seat.

Marc Keller : He was the king’s favorite to take the helm of the French Football Federation in 2024. The timing for this June General Assembly is too tight for him. Strasbourg is not at its best in Ligue 1, selling your club in this situation and in a few weeks is impossible. Member of the executive committee of the FFF since 2016, the Alsatian will play a role behind the scenes.

Jean Michel Aulas : The strongman of Olympique Lyonnais has been hit on by a lot of people for several weeks. Presidents of Leagues, districts, it can appear as the perfect profile to take the head of the 3F. And yet, he repeats throughout the interview that he does not want this place. If Aulas wants to take the lead of the FFF, he will also have to accelerate his disengagement from OL. He will have a role to play because he is highly respected within the comex.

Philippe Diallo : Since January 11, he has piloted the French Football Federation. He is the big favorite to finish the mandate of Noël Le Graët, in the event of the resignation of the Breton. Even if he is not unanimous within the executive committee of the FFF, Philippe Diallo knows perfectly the backstage of the Federation. He keeps the image of a man of records.

Jamel Sandjak: Outsider with ambitions. Close to the amateur world, and former opponent of Noël Le Graët, Sandjak can play his part in the event of a new election to the FFF in the coming months. From June? With ? He has always played the respect card with “NLG”.

Eric Borghini: president of the Mediterranean League, who revealed himself to the general public during his speeches after the comex since the beginning of January can also appear as an outsider.

These profiles will have their say for the continuation of the mandate and the governance of the institution because no one imagines the possibility of a collective resignation. On the other hand, if the comex is forced to leave, the list could be (much) larger. It remains to know the date and the scenario.

Jean Rességuié, Nicolas Pelletier and Loic Briley

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