Minister clears Blanc of discrimination

Investigation into French football coach finds debate 'clumsy and clearly uncalled-for' but rules out discrimination.

    French Sports minister Chantal Jouanno addresses the media in Paris after clearing Blanc of discrimination [AFP]

    Laurent Blanc, coach of France's national football team, has been cleared of discrimination claims by sports minister Chantal Jouanno on Tuesday, following allegations of suggesting racial quotas in youth training academies.

    Blanc was deemed not to have broken any anti-discrimination laws when he and French football federation (FFF) members discussed the idea of enforcing limits on black and Arab players in youth academies in a meeting last November.

    However, Blanc did not entirely escape criticism, after Jouanno said comments made in the meeting were "borderline tending toward racist."


    "There is nothing to suggest that Laurent Blanc in any way gave his support to discriminatory actions," Jouanno told a press conference.

    "The means of limiting dual-nationals was in effect debated," Jouanno continued.

    "The subject was brought up in an awkward and uncalled for manner. It was alluded to in a manner which bordered on racist but there was no project to establish quotas."

    Jouanno added that the investigation did not find enough evidence to launch a judicial procedure although she reiterated that racial quota enforcement was illegal in France.

    "There is no element, no accumulation of evidence that leads us to believe there was discrimination," she said.

    "There are not enough grounds to refer it to the prosecutor's office."


    Blanc was summoned to appear before a joint hearing of the FFF and the Sports Ministry on Monday.

    The two-pronged inquiry was launched after the Mediapart website released a transcript of a meeting last November in which Blanc and French officials discussed introducing quotas on the number of dual-nationality players at youth training centres.

    According to Mediapart's transcript, Blanc told the meeting "it bothers me enormously'' when players who represented France at youth level later "go to play in North African or African teams.''

    "That has to be limited,'' Mediapart quoted Blanc as saying.

    But Jouanno said in Blanc's defence that he also told the meeting: "If there are only blacks in the training centres and these blacks are French and want to play in the France team that is all fine by me.''

    A number of players have come through French academies in recent years, and represented France at youth level, only to switch allegiances to the senior sides of different countries.

    Jouanno said that there was no evidence to suggest that the 2001 law against racial discrimination had been broken.

    "There is no need to take legal action," she said.

    "Laurent Blanc took part in this type of meeting for the first time. He was neither the organiser nor the pilot. The hearings show that he came in on the debate and that he had no project or fixed opinion."

    Chantal Jouanno

    "Laurent Blanc took part in this type of meeting for the first time. He was neither the organiser nor the pilot. The hearings show that he came in on the debate and that he had no project or fixed opinion."

    She also paid tribute to Blanc who took over from Raymond Domenech after the fiasco of France's 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa when the team went on a training ground strike.

    "He's (Blanc) striving to put values back into the heart of the game," said Jouanno.

    Blaquart suspended

    Federation technical director Francois Blaquart, who used the word 'quotas' in the November meeting, has been suspended pending the inquiry and a separate federation probe is also looking into the issue.

    Jouanno said she did not have the authority to sanction the technical director, but would ask the FFF to launch an audit into Blaquart's responsibilities.

    Blaquart could pay heavily for his comment "we can think about a kind of quota without saying it" during the November meeting.

    "I'm not here to make heads roll at any price," said Jouanno.

    "Nothing can lead one to think that a racist philosophy or discrimination is sustained by the FFF, but the DTN's words are regrettable. He should lead by example in debates," added Jouanno.

    Dual-nationality issue

    The minister also said that French youth coaches face "a real problem'' of how to keep dual-nationality players.

    From 2009-2010, 24 of 60 young French players who got training from the football federation chose to play for a country other than France, she said.

    Two youth team players even refused a call-up to the national squad, which is “totally unacceptable,'' she said.

    Changes to FIFA regulations in 2009 making it easier for players to represent other countries have accentuated the problem and "destabilised'' France's youth team, she added.

    "So the problem is real but one of the responses that was envisaged - implementing quotas - is totally, totally illegal,'' she said.

    "It is totally unthinkable,'' she said.

    The FFF will present its investigation's findings at a news conference later on Tuesday with Blanc still not totally in the clear. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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