PARIS FRANCE - FEBRUARY 09: The France team line up for a team photograph prior to the International friendly match between France and Brazil at Stade de France on February 9 2011 in Paris France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Laurent Blanc Cleared In French Football Federation Racism Row

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Laurent Blanc Cleared In French Football Federation Racism Row

French national team coach Laurent Blanc has been cleared of racism by sports minister Chantal Jouanno following insufficient evidence that anti-discrimination law had been broken during a meeting of the French Football Federation that discussed the possibility of introducing an ethnic quota on France's academy system, limiting the space available for players of African and Arabic descent. Ms. Juanno believes that since the matter was only discussed rather than implemented no rules were actually violated:

There is nothing leading to say that Laurent Blanc is backing discriminatory practices.

Laurent Blanc was attending this kind of meeting for the very first time. He did not have any project, no fixed opinion. There is nothing to suggest that Laurent Blanc condones discriminatory guidelines.

This is hardly going to quieten down the racism allegations around the FFF - the conversation did happen and was every bit as misguided and uncalled for as it sounds. The fact that no rules were actually broken doesn't really make racism any less racist. Technical director Francois Blaquart remains suspended pending an FFF investigation.

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Mohammed Belkacemi Comes Forward As Whistleblower Over French 'Ethnic Quota' Plan

Mohammed Belkacemi has admitted leaking recordings of the now infamous meeting in which the French Football Federation's 'ethnic quota' plan came to life. Belkacemi passed along a recording of the meeting to other officials in the organisation, who leaked it to the press, ultimately resulting in Mediaparte breaking the news of the scandal and caused general uproar. Originally the FFF denied that any such quota was discussed, but the recordings themselves soon surfaced, and they don't look great for many, including Laurent Blanc:

You have the impression that they really train the same prototype of players, big, strong, powerful … What is there that is currently big, strong, powerful? The blacks.

France, of course, won the 1998 World Cup with a squad that featured many players of African and Arabic descent. However, that feel-good factor has waned over the last decade, and reached (until rumours of this scandal broke) an all-time low during the 2010 World Cup, where a squad mutiny - one blamed largely on the team's black and Muslim players - saw the French go home in disgrace.

But that disgrace, quite frankly, is nothing compared to the shame the FFF are facing over this.

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French Football Federation's Technical Director Francois Blaquart Suspended Over Racism Claims

The racism row over the French Football Federation's supposed plans to introduce ethnic quotas into the country's training academies is heating up and has now resulted in the temporary suspension of FFF technical director Francois Blaquart. Although the FFF brass have strongly denied the accusations, the government have not been impressed and have forced them to launch a formal investigation into the claims alongside the Inspectorate General of Youth and Sports. A statement from French sports minister Chantal Jouanno and FFF president Fernand Duchaussoy explained Blauquart's suspension:

[The suspension is] pending the outcome of investigations by the FFF and the IGJS, who will relay their findings in eight days. The FFF reaffirms that none of its elected bodies has validated or even contemplated a policy of quotas for the recruitment of its training centres.

If the investigation turns up something, I'd guarantee that the 'temporary' nature of the suspension no longer applies. Heads will start to roll if the allegations over the FFF's plans do indeed prove correct.

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French Football Federation Accused Of Institutionalized Racism

The French Football Federation has been roundly criticised for reports that 'senior members' have been attempting to introduce a limit on the number of players of African and Arabic descent in youth academies nationwide, with outrage coming from various sectors of the media and the government itself. Those accused of attempting to implement the reportedly have hotly denied the claims, but there still a number of extremely worrying quotes floating around regarding the whole affair.

For example, Andre Merelle, the former manage of the National Training Centre at Clairefontaine, has asserted that the management of the French national team had issues with the racial balance of the squad under former manager Gerard Houllier*:

It was under [French football manager] Gerard Houllier's helm. There was no official quota policy at the time, but a reflection about the numbers of black and Arabs. According to them, and that includes Francois Blaquart, there were too many.

And then there's a rather damning remark from former Marseilles president Pape Diouf:

I don't know if [the quota rumors] are true, but I am not surprised by the revelations. The truth is the following: French football is a reflection of [French] society. French football is racist, it excludes.

What seems clear from the scandal so far is that the FFF and the national team have created a culture where this sort of action would be at the very least plausible, and that alone is reason for concern. It does, however, come with a bright spot - French football is going to have to take a long, hard look at itself after this, and hopefully emerge a little less xenophobic afterwards.

*It's worth pointing out that Houllier, who currently managed English Premier League side Aston Villa, has never seemed to have any problems with non-white players over the course of his career, and brought in Jean II Makoun and Darren Bent during the January transfer window.

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Laurent Blanc Denies Ethnic Quota Claims

France national team coach Laurent Blanc has responded to the Mediapart report that stated that Blanc had worked with the French Football Federation (FFF) to create a secret 'racial quota' that would limit the number of players of African descent allowed in the country's training academies by insisting that the accusations are false - and furthermore, that they're offensive (which they would be, if they're false):

[The accusation] really bothers me because it's against my values. To me, this is totally false - there is no draft quota - and it's a lie to say that the coach of the France team participated, so I cannot tell you about something that does not exist.

I have never heard mention of such a project. Since around 15 years the playing policy has been discriminatory for a certain number of players, [with] athletic and physical criteria being essential.

Today, small players are penalised. That's discrimination. What upsets me the most is to add 'colour' to this. When one accuses me of this type of discrimination, that annoys me. Diversity exists, on the street as in football.

It'll be interesting to see what becomes of this - I'd really like to think that Blanc's telling the truth and this is being blown up all out of proportion, but the possibility remains that he really is deliberately trying to 'whiten' up the football team. If so, that would clearly be a rather despicable goal, but it also seems that most of the rest of France is rather solidly against such a prospect anyway. When a planned policy apparently has to be kept so secret that half of the FFF is unaware of it, we can be pretty sure that it's not going to be widely popular move.

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FFF Plans 'Ethnic Quota' For Soccer Training Academies, According To Report

Fascinating and at least mildly horrifying news out of France today. The French Football Federation and the national team have both identified an apparent problem with French football - not enough white players participating. Leaving aside whether race ratios in the sport are a legitimate problem or not, I think that most right-thinking people would agree that the correct response is something other than limiting the number of non-white players learning to play football in the country.

Except, according to a report that ran in Mediapart, that's exactly what they've gone and done. In a remarkable turn of events, members of the FFF apparently angered by the move have leaked the details of a 'secret agreement' to limit the number of players of African and North African descent in French football academies to no more than 30% of the class. The FFF is rather stridently denying that any such 'ethnic quota' exists but Mediapart are more than happy to stick to their story, claiming 'irrefutable evidence' that their claims are true.

I think everyone who's pro-sanity is hoping that Mediapart are indeed wrong, because there's absolutely no way to paint the story they've released as anything but gross racism. Eurosport have also released a story quoting president Fernand Duchaussoyas saying that this is a misunderstanding regarding players with dual nationality, but the FFF's going to have a lot of explaining to do to alleviate everyone's concerns about this.

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