Europe 1 with AFP 9:29 p.m., January 11, 2023

From his debut at the head of En-Avant Guingamp in 1972 to his withdrawal from the presidency of the French Federation (FFF) on Wednesday, Noël Le Graët had a long career as a leader in French football marked by ascent.

An industrialist in the food industry, Noël Le Graët arrived in the world of football in 1972 when he became president of En-Avant Guingamp (EAG), managing to bring up the Côtes-d'Armor club, from where he originated, from the regional level to Ligue 2. Almost 20 years later, the Breton is well established in the landscape of the most popular sport in France and in 1991 became president of the National League (LNF), ancestor of the LFP, where he remained for nine years and acquired a reputation as a strong president.

Le Graët first proceeded to clean up club management by establishing the National Management Control Department (DNCG), the body responsible for monitoring the financial health of French clubs.

Above all, the former mayor of Guingamp (1995-2008) forged his image by opposing Bernard Tapie, then president of Olympique de Marseille.

Pushed by Le Graët, the League will "file a complaint against X so that all the light is shed" in the affair of the fixed match Valenciennes - OM in 1993.


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Duel with Tapie

This affair caused a scandal and led to OM's relegation to the second division at the end of the 1993/94 season.

Above all, a personal duel begins with Tapie.

"I believe that Mr. Le Graët has been waging a war from the start that has nothing to do with football. Therefore, I will fight him personally," announces Tapie.

But it is the president of the LNF who emerges victorious and asserts his authority over French football, when Tapie is prohibited from exercising any function in a club.

On the strength of this experience, Le Graët became vice-president of the French Football Federation (FFF) in 2005, five years after leaving the League.

It was in the antechamber of the presidency that he signed one of his best shots: a lucrative agreement with the American equipment supplier Nike.

"The most beautiful contract in the world", welcomes at the time "NLG", for a record sum of 42 million euros annually, which makes the France team the best paid national team at the time. .

Through this operation, he demonstrates his business acumen, begins a spectacular financial recovery and offers himself a choice argument to access one of the highest functions in French sport: president of the "3F".


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President of the Federation in 2011

He succeeded in 2011, but French football was in crisis, a year after the Knysna fiasco at the World Cup in South Africa.

The "Prez", as it is now nicknamed, allows the FFF to enrich itself by taking over control of the marketing rights linked to the Blues, a real goose that lays the golden egg.

But he must now restore the image of the Blues with sponsors.

In 2012, after Laurent Blanc's unsuccessful stint as coach, Le Graët chose Didier Deschamps, the start of a tandem that lasted more than ten years.

It's another winning move: the "DD" team reaches the final of Euro-2016 in France (defeat against Portugal), then wins the supreme trophy: the 2018 World Cup, in Russia.

Deschamps is congratulated and Le Graët reinforced.


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Controversies and twilight

After the 2018 peak, the decline begins.

The "Menhir" loses its communication skills by missing certain media releases.

He first calls for no longer stopping matches in the event of homophobic songs, believing that "it is not the same thing" as racism, in 2019, then affirms that racism "does not exist or hardly exists" in football the year after.

In 2021, he caused a new controversy by declaring about the tensions between the coach of the Blue Corinne Deacon and his players: "No match lost (since the World Cup-2019, editor's note), so they can pull their hair, that is equal."

His third full term at the head of the FFF is also shaken by a case: former employees accuse him through testimonies, all anonymous, of sexist behavior and inappropriate gestures.

The Ministry of Sports then launches an audit.

The Blues return to the World Cup final in 2022 but Le Graët does not take advantage of the momentum by deciding alone on Deschamps' extension until 2026 and then triggering indignation after discourteous remarks towards Zinedine Zidane.

In the process, agent Sonia Souid denounces her sexist behavior.

"He told me face to face, in his apartment, very clearly, that if I wanted him to help me (to promote women's football), I had to go to the pan," she says.