French soccer president accused of improper conduct by agent

AP , Tuesday 10 Jan 2023

A sports agent has accused the president of the French soccer federation of improper conduct over several years, saying he only was interested in her sexually.

FILE - Head of French Football Federation (FFF) Noel Le Graet attends a press conference in Paris, W
FILE - Head of French Football Federation (FFF) Noel Le Graet attends a press conference in Paris, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The president of France s soccer federation apologized Monday Jan.9, 2023. AP

Noel Le Graet has had a tumultuous week in France after saying he ``couldn't care less'' about Zinedine Zidane's future as a coach, and the latest accusation led to calls for his resignation Tuesday from the head of the French Football Federation's ethics council.

The troubled 81-year-old soccer executive has previously faced claims of sexual harassment and the French federation is the target of an investigation ordered by Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera.

The agent, 37-year-old Sonia Souid, said in an interview with L'Equipe sports daily that Le Graet repeatedly tried to approach her from 2013-17.

She said that while she wanted to develop a business relationship with Le Graet to promote women's soccer, he was more interested in leaving messages on her voicemail late in the evening to invite her to drink champagne.

France's sports minister ordered an investigation into the federation in September after the body said it would file a defamation lawsuit against So Foot magazine, which reported that Le Graet allegedly harassed several female employees.

The French magazine published a six-page investigation quoting anonymous former and current employees, and inappropriate text messages that Le Graet allegedly sent to the women. So Foot also described an alleged toxic culture at the federation.

Souid, who said she first met Le Graet in 2013, also told L'Equipe that he texted her to ask her out or tell her he missed her. Souid said he never went too far verbally but made clear she should have sex with him to move her ideas forward.

``He never looked at me like an agent but like a piece of candy,`` Souid said.

Souid said she was hurt by Le Graet's attitude and that she thought about ending her career as an agent. Asked whether Le Graet helped her professionally at some point, Souid said he helped her find the phone number of coach Corinne Diacre and that he tried to help her with business class plane tickets for France player Amandine Henry.

Patrick Anton, head of the FFF's ethics council, issued a statement Tuesday urging Le Graet to leave his post.

``We call on the president of the Federation to withdraw from his duties and therefore to resign,`` the statement said. ``We need leadership that is strong and serene, which unfortunately is no longer the case.``

In addition to his role at the French soccer federation, Le Graet also has been a member of the FIFA Council since being appointed by UEFA in May 2019. The position pays $250,000 annually.

Le Graet is currently a candidate for another four-year term on FIFA's ruling committee. He is being challenged for the seat by Portuguese soccer federation president Fernando Gomes. The election is set for April 5, when UEFA member nations meet in Lisbon.

Le Graet's candidacy must pass a FIFA-run eligibility and integrity check. He can stand for election despite UEFA imposing an age limit of 70 for candidates to its own executive committee.

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