Noël Le Graët's hearing before the parliamentary commission of inquiry into "operating failures within French sports federations" was particularly anticipated. Questioned in recent days, Didier Deschamps, the coach of the Blues, Philippe Diallo, current president of the FFF, but also Eric Borghini, member of the Comex of the FFF, had all indicated that the 81-year-old leader concentrated all the responsibilities. And so all the decisions.
Noël Le Graët showed up alone, looking tired and with a quavering voice. The president of the commission, Béatrice Bellamy, and the rapporteur, Sabrina Sebaihi, had to regularly ask him to activate his microphone before speaking. The octogenarian began by “swearing to tell the truth”, with a reservation concerning the current investigation targeting him for “moral and sexual harassment”.
In a teasing mood, Le Graët began by telling the story of his life, ensuring that he “always had two passions: football and the town of Guingamp.” He then defended his sporting and financial record since the Knysna fiasco. “I straightened out the finances,” he assures. He perceives his ouster from the FFF in February 2023 as an “undeserved media lynching. I didn’t do anything wrong to anyone.”
Angry topics quickly emerged. On the issue of the departure of many women within the FFF, the former president makes “no reproaches” and claims to be “used to working with women”: “I put women in all positions . My general director, Florence Hardouin, was a woman. My vice-president, Brigitte Henriques, was a woman. He laments that “times have changed. It's no longer said to tell a person that they have a pretty dress. I’m 82 years old and you have to be more careful than before about what you say.”
The committee also returned to its comments concerning racism and homophobia in football. “The racist phenomenon in sport, and in football in particular, does not exist, or hardly exists,” he declared in 2020. He regrets his comments on homophobia, ensuring that he “changed after being in associations ". The former mayor, however, maintains that “the people who shout at the stadium are not homophobic, they are stupid”. Le Graët, on the other hand, “purely and simply” rejects any suspicion of racism: “I have always been close to Africa. I think I have done a lot so that the little ones can be together in football schools.
The debates then focused on several cases that have shaken the FFF in recent years: an accusation of harassment in Moscow during the 2018 World Cup; the Angélique Roujas affair, accused of having had relationships with players, including minors, when she was coach of INF Clairefontaine; the Daniel Galletti case, former referee accused of sexual blackmail and sexual harassment of minors; the Jacky Fortshoulder affair, convicted of moral and sexual harassment; the Bachir Nehar affair, intendant of the Blues suspected of conflict of interest; and finally the affair of the illegal contract for the Blues’ watches after the coronation in 2018.
Noël Le Graët has often claimed not to know the file in question, or not to have the answers. “Not all cases go back to the president of the FFF,” he explains, while conceding that the FFF “could have done better” during his mandate. And the former president of Guingamp concluded: “I am passionate about football, I never miss a match and I can talk to you about it for hours. But I’m not a lawyer.”