French football president Noel Le Graet resigns amid harassment investigation

Noel Le Graet has resigned as president of France's football federation (FFF) amid misconduct including sexual harassment and a damning audit, the federation said on Tuesday.

Le Graet, head of the French Football Federation (FFF) since 2011, has denied wrongdoing and said on Tuesday that he would remain in the sport, with FIFA offering him leadership of its Paris bureau.

Le Graet had taken a step back amid a legal investigation into alleged sexual and moral harassment and a damning audit commissioned by the sports ministry.

- Le Graet investigation sends French football in chaos

Earlier this month, the audit concluded that Le Graet, 81, no longer had "the necessary legitimacy" to administer and represent the sport in France and "highlighted the inappropriate behaviour of Mr Le Graet towards women."

"Noel Le Graet announced... to the Executive Committee of the French Football Federation his decision to step down from his position," the FFF said in a statement.

"Philippe Diallo, vice-president, will act as interim president of the FFF until June 10, 2023, the date of the next federal assembly."

The FFF criticised the ministry's audit, saying it was "based less on objective facts than on assessments."

Le Graet, who presided over his last executive committee on Tuesday and whose mandate was due to end in 2024, said he would challenge the conclusions of the audit via "all legal channels".

"I have never harassed anyone, morally or sexually," he told French sports daily L'Equipe on Tuesday.

Le Graet said FIFA head Gianni Infantino had told him he could take charge of the Paris office of soccer's world governing body, FIFA.

"I saw Gianni Infantino [on Monday] in Paris and he gave me the responsibility," Le Graet was quoted as saying.

Le Graet had also come under fire from players and politicians for criticising French World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane.

He was criticised for extending France coach Didier Deschamps' contract until 2026, two years after his term at the head of the FFF expires.

French football has been in turmoil recently, despite the national side reaching their fourth World Cup final in the past seven editions of the tournament, losing to Argentina in Qatar last December.

The French women's team coach, Corinne Diacre, has also been under fire after captain Wendie Renard said last week she would not play at this year's Women's World Cup.

According to a report in French outlet RMC Sport, Renard said she will not play for the national side as long as Diacre is in charge.

Fellow internationals Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani also said they were taking a step back from the national team.

ESPN sources added Diacre's fate as manager would be decided on March 9 by a select committee.

Information from Reuters was included in this report.