Source of French quota leak identified as probes widen
PARIS (Reuters) -- Mohamed Belkacemi, the French Football Federation's (FFF) chief community officer, is behind a leak which has led to accusations of racial discrimination within the organization, French newspapers reported on Wednesday.
Belkacemi attended a meeting along with France coach Laurent Blanc in November at which investigative website Mediapart has alleged officials discussed the idea of establishing unofficial quotas for players with African and Arab origin in youth teams.
According to Le Parisien newspaper, Belkacemi has gone before a federation inquiry team which must issue its findings early next week.
"It's out in the press, so I'm going to have a bit of difficultly contradicting you," French Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno told France Inter radio.
Two parallel investigations by the FFF and the ministry began on Tuesday with the federation probe deciding on potential sanctions which could include dismissal. The ministry investigation will determine whether legal action is necessary.
Federation Technical Director Francois Blaquart was suspended last week pending the investigations while Blanc has been forced to defend himself amid speculation he agreed with the quota plan which Mediapart said Blaquart initiated.
"I never heard those words in the mouth of Laurent Blanc. I talked to him Friday night and Saturday. He was quite shocked and hurt," Jouanno said.
Blanc, who has said the November meeting was about players of dual-nationality and nothing more, is expected to be heard by the inquiries at the weekend.
The affair, which has prompted a wave of criticism from the political world, is the latest problem for the FFF following last year's fiasco where the national team went on strike at the World Cup and were dumped out in the group stage.
France, who made the World Cup thanks in part to an infamous Thierry Henry handball, have improved under Blanc and will host Euro 2016 but the FFF presidential elections on June 18 will now be closely watched.