Top French official suspended over race row

AFP , Saturday 30 Apr 2011

Francois Blaquart, Gerard Houllier's successor as head of French football's youth coaching policy, was on Saturday suspended from his job as fall out from the race row that has hit the game in France continued

Francois Blaquart, head of French football's youth coaching policy, suspended

Blacquart's suspension was announced by the French Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno and his employers, the French Football Federation (FFF), which has found itself at the centre of a storm over discrimination.

Blaquart was relieved of his post 48 hours after a controversial report emerged linking him and other leading officials including France coach Laurent Blanc to the introduction of a cap on black and Arab players.

The FFF on Friday launched an internal inquiry into the affair, the latest crisis to hit the game in France following last year's disastrous World Cup campaign and infamous players' strike in South Africa.

Reports that French football chiefs, including Blanc, had discussed and approved a ceiling on non-whites coming through youth training programmes emerged Thursday via Mediapart.

The influential website claimed: "For the top brass in French football, the issue is settled: there are too many blacks, too many Arabs and not enough white players in French football."

The FFF confirmed Blaquart had been ordered to step down "from immediate effect" as they awaited the results of their investigation into the scandal due in the coming week.

His suspension came hours after Mediapart released what it claimed was a verbatim account of high level FFF officials including Blanc and Blacquart discussing limiting the number of players holding dual nationality at training centres.

The meeting was said to have taken place last November.

But a joint statement from Jouanno and FFF president Fernand Duchaussoy stressed: "The FFF reiterates that none of its members approved or envisaged a recruiting quotas policy at its formation centres."

Blaquart succeeded Aston Villa manager Houllier as head of the FFF's National Technical Board (DTN), and was alleged to have been a key proponent of the plan.

On Friday Blanc categorically dismissed Mediapart's accusations, the 1998 French World Cup winning defender denying such a policy existed.

Raymond Domenech's successor said he had "never heard mention of such a project".

"Since around 15 years the playing policy has been discriminatory for a certain number of players, athletic and physical criteria being essential.

"Today, small players are penalised, that's discrimination," he explained, in a reference to youngsters coming through football training centres.

"What upsets me most is to add 'colour' to this. When one accuses me of this type of discrimination, that annoys me.

"Diversity exists, on the street as in football," Blanc said.

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