French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet has been forced to stand down just weeks after France’s defeat in the World Cup final, following a series of controversies, the body said on Wednesday.
The decision was taken following an emergency meeting of the FFF in Paris.
“Noel Le Graet, in agreement with the FFF executive committee gathered today in Paris, has chosen to step down from his role as president until the completion of the audit performed by the sports ministry,” the federation said.
Le Graet, whose mandate was due to run until 2024, had faced calls to resign after what he admitted were “clumsy remarks” about Zinedine Zidane’s potential interest in coaching the French national team.
The 81-year-old, who has been president of the FFF since 2011, had said in an interview with radio station RMC on Sunday that he “wouldn’t even have taken his call” when asked whether Zidane, a World Cup winner as a player and an all-time France great, had rung him to express an interest in taking over as coach from Didier Deschamps.
Deschamps, who led France to World Cup glory in 2018 and oversaw their run to last month’s final which they lost on penalties to Argentina, last weekend signed a new contract to stay as France coach until 2026.
Speaking on Wednesday at an event in Nice, Deschamps admitted Le Graet’s comments about Zidane had been “inappropriate”.
That storm followed a series of accusations of mistreatment by employees at the FFF, which led to the French government launching an audit of the federation and Le Graet being summoned to attend a hearing.
Le Graet denied those accusations, but on Tuesday his behaviour again came under the spotlight with a female football agent making further accusations of unwanted sexual advances by the veteran administrator in an interview with sports daily L’Equipe.
France’s sports minister, Amelie Oudea-Castera, made clear that she wanted action taken against Le Graet when she called on the FFF’s executive committee to “take responsibility” when speaking to reporters on Monday.
With committee members taking the view that Le Graet’s position had become untenable, he has been replaced on an interim basis by Philippe Diallo, a vice-president of the organisation.
Oudea-Castera welcomed the move and told AFP that the president standing down was “a necessary step given what we know about his attitude”.
Director general Florence Hardouin, who has also been suspended from her role, suffered “discomfort” at home on Wednesday, a source close to the FFF told AFP.
French sports daily L’Equipe said Hardouin was “very affected by the turn of events” and felt “severe chest pains”.
Le Graet, a former socialist mayor of the small Brittany town of Guingamp, oversaw the rise of the local football team that became a top-flight force during his time as club president.
He is the second high-profile French sporting administrator to be forced to step down in recent weeks.
French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte said he would offer to resign last month after being handed a two-year suspended prison sentence on corruption charges.