Soccer president resigns over 'sexual harassment'

Noel Le Graet has resigned as French soccer federation president after a government audit found he no longer had the legitimacy to lead because of his behaviour towards women and his management style.

The 81-year-old is under judicial investigation for alleged sexual and moral harassment. He had already stepped away from his duties until the audit's findings were reviewed by the federation's executive committee.

Le Graet submitted his resignation to a meeting of the executive committee on Tuesday, the federation said.

Federation vice president Philippe Diallo will handle Le Graet's duties on an interim basis until June this year, the statement added.

Amid growing criticism of Le Graet last year, French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera ordered the audit into the federation in September.

The audit report, based on more than 100 interviews and analysis of various documents, concluded last month that Le Graet's behaviour towards women was inappropriate.

It also highlighted other dysfunctions at the federation and noted that its policy against gender-based and sexual violence is "neither effective or efficient."

However, the federation praised Le Graet's "remarkable sporting and economic results" as its since 2011.

It reiterated its "strong commitment against gender-based and sexual violence" and sought to distance itself from the audit.

Le Graet has had a strong relationship with FIFA president Gianni Infantino and it is unclear what the status was of his two positions at soccer's world body.

Infantino appointed Le Graet in January 2022 as his personal delegate to FIFA's satellite office in Paris that includes liaising with member federations in Europe and Africa.

"The French Football Federation is doing a remarkable job," Infantino said last year in announcing the appointment, "and I often have the opportunity to talk with Noel Le Graet to better understand how the example set here in France can support football development projects on a global basis."

FIFA did not immediately respond to requests on Tuesday for comment on the issue.

Despite the controversy surrounding the French soccer body, Le Graet has not publicly withdrawn his candidacy to stand in an April 5 vote at the UEFA Congress in Lisbon, Portugal.

French football is in turmoil. Last week, women's captain Wendie Renard said she would not play at this year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Renard is reported to have said she will not play for the national side as long as coach Corinne Diacre remains in charge.