Following a So Foot investigation which prompted an government audit into the French Football Federation, Radio France has this morning published a number of statements from former female employees who accuse president Noël Le Graët of inappropriate behaviour.
All of the women have preferred to remain anonymous, and have described examples of “inappropriate behaviour” and even outright “harassment“. One employee explains that the So Foot investigation brought things to the fore which she had held back:
“Noël Le Graët was really crude with me. He would tell me that he wanted to bring me home. He wouldn’t send me any texts. He wasn’t a pro with his phone back then. But there were repeated invitations to go have dinner with him”. Sonia, whose name was changed for the purpose of the article, explained that when she wanted to discuss something with the president, he would tell her that he was only free for dinners, and that he once told her that “if something happens between us, don’t worry, nobody will ever know.” She adds that “he’s an old man who didn’t see that the world had changed. He makes inappropriate comments and jokes. Because he’s the president, you have to laugh. It’s not easy to manage.”
Sonia goes on to claim that Florence Hardouin, the current director-general of the FFF, had an “ambiguous” role in that she too received invitations from the president and that they had spoken together about it, but that she still “wanted to fire” her.
Another former employee, named as Estelle, explains that the organisation “has massive governance issues and a generalised omertà on certain subjects such as sexual harassment and bullying”. She alleges that the week before she was due to go on a business trip with Le Graët, he would repeatedly call her to say that he was happy to be going with her, and told her to wear a skirt. She says that instead, she wore a pair of trousers, and on the plane Le Graët placed his hand on her thigh, which she pushed back. While on the trip, Estelle says that he asked her to come up to his hotel room to help him install a VPN on his iPad, and that she asked him to come down to the hallway instead.
Noël Le Graët has been contacted by Radio France and has, via his director of communications, stated that “I resolutely contest the alleged “inappropriate” with regard to [female] employees within the FFF. I have always maintained respectful relationships with my [female and male] colleagues in a climate of mutual trust. These anonymous allegations which are both false and malicious manifestly seek to damage me professionally and personally.” Florence Hardouin has also denied the allegations in Radio France’s piece, explaining that she will offer no comment to journalists as the audit called for by the ministry of sports is underway.