French FA chief accused of improper conduct

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

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

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

The 37-year-old said that while she wanted to develop a business relationship with Le Graet to promote women’s football, 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.

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

Le Graet is a candidate for another four-year term on FIFA’s ruling committee. He is being challenged for the seat by Portuguese football 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.

Le Graet has had a tumultuous week in France after saying he “couldn’t care less” about France legend Zinedine Zidane’s future as a coach.

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