“The French Football Federation and the wolf”

ELIOT BLONDET / AFP Adrien Taquet, former Secretary of State for Children and Families (photo price on December 23, 2021)


Adrien Taquet, former Secretary of State for Children and Families (photo price on December 23, 2021)

TRIBUNE – The foundation of life in society has consisted, for each of us, in giving up a little of our individual freedom for the benefit of public power which, in exchange, organizes our collective life and protects us, in particular others. To betray this duty of security, to no longer be able to ensure the protection of our children, is to break the social pact. And then man becomes a wolf again for man, and for his children.

This is what is at stake in recent days, with the revelations that hit the French Football Federation (FFF) and the way it handled cases of sexual assault on minors aged 13 or 14 by some of its frames. Responsible for the girls at Clairefontaine, coach of the French women’s team, educator at the training center, responsible for the referees… awareness of both the extent and the seriousness of the facts. But above all, and this is even more serious, it concealed the reality: if the incriminated persons were for the most part dismissed or dismissed from their responsibilities within the federal fold, the reasons for these dismissals were kept secret. These “educators” and “educators” were thus able to keep their license and continue to practice their profession with children, in other clubs that we had failed to inform, one in Metz, the other in the Rhône.

This policy of dissimulation, in the name of the protection of the institution and of discipline, failing to protect minors, is not new nor unique to football. But in any case, it exposes our children to the recurrence of sexual predators who have not been reported to the administrative and judicial authorities, not been judged, not even suspended, as a precautionary and preventive measure, from their ability to work with minors – which article 85 of the FFF regulations nevertheless allows, even in the absence of a criminal conviction.

“This policy of concealment exposes our children to the recurrence of sexual predators”

The fight against sexual violence in sport was the meeting point of our common struggles with Roxana Maracineanu. Because sport is the place where millions of children meet adults in an asymmetrical relationship often exacerbated by the relationship between the coach and his student. Because the relationship to the body occupies a specific place there, in certain sports in particular. As of the November 2019 anti-violence plan, we have thus reinforced the control of the criminal records of all people working with minors, the list of which has been further expanded by the law of February 7, 2022 on the protection of children. The Minister of Sports at the time also generalized the integrity check of the 2 million volunteers, so essential to sustaining our clubs.

The prevention of recidivism is obviously fundamental, but upstream actions must be further intensified to raise awareness among the children themselves. Let’s start by making sex education classes compulsory again in schools. We had obtained with Elisabeth Moreno that an audit be carried out on the reality of this teaching, which revealed that it only benefited 1 student out of 5. The content has since been updated, to include questions of consent, new threats linked to social networks, early exposure to pornography, the risk of prostitution, etc. It must now benefit all children, from the age of 4 until high school, as is the case in many countries.

Prevention must also be reinforced within amateur or pre-professional clubs such as training centres. Associations are doing tremendous work, which must continue to be supported by the public authorities but also by the clubs, so that it benefits children throughout the territory – without forgetting the Overseas Territories, where it is high time to face the subject of sexual violence against children without taboo. The initial training of educators will at the same time be reinforced with a mandatory module on ethics and integrity, in particular to make them aware that certain behaviors are neither desirable nor acceptable – interviewing a minor alone and the door closed, exchanging text messages with a child, etc.

“The FFF can no longer fail to report cases of sexual violence against minors to its supervisory authority”

When we know that children with disabilities are 4 times more victims of sexual violence than the average, it is also imperative for the entire sports movement to intensify the reflection initiated within the French Paralympic and Sports Committee by Marie-Amélie Lefur. Or it is the most vulnerable of the vulnerable who will once again be forgotten and invisible.

Finally, better protecting our children means asking questions about the relationships between the federations and their supervisory authority. Including the most powerful of them, which welcomes the largest number of children from all walks of life.

The FFF can no longer omit to report cases of sexual violence against minors to its supervisory authority, it must be exemplary in the treatment given to the deviant behavior of the people under its responsibility. This begins with absolute transparency in these cases, and with the guarantee that the reporting procedures will be effective, and that the victims will be supported. All this under the strict control of the Ministry of Sports, which must exercise its power of control and sanction over bodies which, let us remember, only exist or act by delegation of public service, and benefit from public money. . Or else the ministry will also fail in its duty to protect our children.

Following the latest revelations by the press, Minister Oudéa-Castéra commissioned an audit of the overall functioning of the FFF. We bet that he will not forget to look into the way in which this body has managed cases of sexual violence against minors in the federal fold, by establishing individual responsibilities. But make no mistake about it: if the result should only lead to the dismissal of some of its executives, it will be a missed opportunity, that of recognizing that it is the system as a whole that needs to be reformed. , a new culture of protection that needs to be strengthened.

To miss this opportunity is to agree to continue to shell the victims. Our children first of all, who will continue to be potential prey. The educators then, do a tremendous job and can prevent it from being soiled by the behavior of a few. Football, which will eventually see the number of its licensees decrease. Finally, the public authorities would ask for the trust that brought us together justified to crumble.

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