Serial scandals in French sports

Bruno Martini, Noel Le Grae and Bernard Laporte, three French sports leaders implicated in compromising cases. AFP archive photos

After the antics of Noel Le Grae and Bernard Laporte, respectively sacked as presidents of the football and rugby federations, it is now the turn of another leading French sports leader to face trial.

As France play their World Cup in Poland, where they just made it to the quarter-finals brilliantly after dominating the Germans (35-28) in the quarter-finals, French handball woke up on Thursday in shock. Bruno Martini, the Blues’ former emblematic goalkeeper with whom he won two world titles in 1995 and 2001, has just been sacked from his post as head of the National Handball League (NHL). In office since 2021, the latter was sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence, as well as a fine of 2,500 euros and a five-year ban on activities related to contact with minors for “corrupting minors” and “corrupting minors.” records of child pornography images.


Investigated since 2020 following a complaint by a 13-year-old, Bruno Martini, 52, accepted a guilty verdict on Wednesday and admitted to the facts. After that, he stepped down as president of the NHL. Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castera welcomed the NHL’s swift, clear and responsible response, in conjunction with the French Handball Federation: “This resignation was necessary,” she tweeted.

In the evening, the French Federation announced that it had “unanimously decided to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Bruno Martini, given the seriousness of the facts for which he was convicted.”

Asked after the Blues reached the World Cup semi-finals, hand legend Nikola Karabatic said the Blues “were all in shock when (they) heard the news this morning.” “After that, we compete and focus on ourselves. But it’s true that it wasn’t easy,” he added before flying to Stockholm with his teammates to face Sweden there on Friday night.

Serial scandals

The investigation into Bruno Martini is the latest in a recent string of legal challenges for French sports leaders. A series of unprecedented crises in France paints a grim picture of the health of the national sport.

Among the most high-profile of them, what the French Football Federation has been experiencing for several weeks is far from over. It still bears the name of its president, Noel Le Graet, accustomed to the arguments and formulaic phrases that ultimately led to the victory of the 81-year-old leader and plunged the FFF into an endless whirlwind.

He was targeted by an audit mission launched ahead of the World Cup in Qatar by Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Kastera and is now the subject of a legal investigation into sexual and moral harassment. This investigation follows a report of “sexist outrage” by auditors commissioned by the Sports Ministry to investigate dysfunctions in the body.

According to Le Monde, the report followed a press release by Sonia Suid, an agent for several French international organizations, denouncing Le Grae’s assertiveness. Under pressure after the publication of a journalistic investigation in September 2022 that sparked possible sexist behavior, the minister also decided to launch this check following the leader’s controversial remarks about Zinedine Zidane, which led to his withdrawal from the federation.

Despite this unacceptable situation, Noel Le Grae still refuses to step down until the publication of the preliminary audit report, which is expected next Monday.

The oval is still under tension…

Nine months before the World Cup organized in France, rugby also looks bad because of the two most important figures. The President of the French Federation, Bernard Laporte, was convicted on December 13, 2022, along with businessman Mohed Altrad, for a corrupt conspiracy related, in particular, to the sponsorship of the French national team jersey.

After appealing his two-year suspended prison sentence, the 58-year-old former midfielder tried in vain to remain in his post, eventually accepting a near-total resignation but retaining his title devoid of any content.

Barely starting a referendum to appoint a delegate to the presidency, he was placed in police custody for several hours on Tuesday in a case of money laundering or aggravated tax evasion in a case separate from the one for which he was convicted. According to Maitre Thierry Nes, his tax consultant, it will be “a donation made more than twelve years ago.”

Another French rugby strongman, Claude Atcher, was fired from his post as head of the Mondial 2023 organizing committee in October for managerial practices and is the subject of a judicial investigation.

… the Olympic Committee too

For several months, the National Olympic and Sports Committee (Cnosf) continued to destroy itself. Its president, Brigitte Henriquez, elected in June 2021, filed a complaint of “psychological abuse” against her former right-hand man Didier Seminet, who himself sued for “defamatory denunciation” and “breach of confidence.” A confrontation that seems to have split the Olympic organism into two clans. After a two-month break after this conflict, the former FFF vice-president, during her return to business in mid-December, was delayed by another internal audit, as a result of which she had to reimburse the Olympic Club just over 4,000 euros. body.

A bleak picture as the Paris Olympics are fast approaching. They will take place in a year and a half from July 24 to August 11, 2024.

GB with AFP

Source: L Orient Le Jour

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