The technical director of the French Football Federation, Francois Blaquart, has been suspended amid allegations of a plan to enforce racial quotas in youth academies.
Chantal Jouanno, France’s sports minister, said Blaquart was suspended with immediate effect “pending the conclusions of an investigation led by the FFF and the IGJS [General Inspection of Youth and Sports]”.
The story cited sources within the FFF claiming Blaquart advocated limiting the number of non-white children entering the selection process through training centres and academies.
On Saturday Mediapart published further claims about a meeting at which Blaquart, the France coach, Laurent Blanc, the under-21 coach, Erick Mombaerts, and the under-20 coach, Francis Smerecki, among others, allegedly debated African players with dual nationality who were groomed in France but opted to play for their country of origin.
“We can mark out, in an unspoken way, a sort of quota. But it needs to remain unspoken,” Blaquart was quoted as saying by Mediapart.
Blaquart told RMC website : “I cannot not acknowledge these remarks. But they have to be put in their context. We acknowledged the fact that there were many players with dual nationality … we had to control the management of these players who might be leaving us. There is nothing more to it.”
Blanc, who played in the 1998 World Cup-winning team that was dubbed “Black-Blanc-Beur” (Blacks, Whites and Arabs) by French media, has often raised the issue of dual nationality players, but rejected the claim he was in favour of racial quotas.
“No such project has been revealed to me,’ he said. “It’s a lie. You cannot have quotas in football. It does not exist. Football is made of diversity. It really bothers me because it’s against my values. To me, this is totally false.”
Blanc said in a statement: “I do not withdraw what I said yesterday. I admit that some remarks made during a work meeting, taken out of their context, may be misinterpreted and, as far as I am concerned, I apologise if I have hurt some feelings. But I, who am against any form of discrimination, do not stand being accused of racism or xenophobia.”
“One has to be insincere not to see that the debate I took part in had obviously nothing to do with ‘reducing the number of blacks and Arabs in French football’ as the article’s headline said.
The only question was to “discuss the future of French football and deal with the delicate problem of players with dual nationality…”
The FFF president, Fernand Duchaussoy, has also denied any such policy existed.
“What happened in a meeting, behind a door or in the corridors… I cannot vouch for everyone working at the federation,” he said. “But I am confident [that there was no wrongdoing],” he said. The FFF’s investigation into the claims is expected to be completed within eight days.