Football: Fournet-Fayard pays price of failure: President resigns after one of French football's 'most sinister periods'. Julian Nundy reports from Paris

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The Independent Online
THE FRENCH Football Federation president resigned yesterday after France's elimination from the 1994 World Cup, a setback which capped a series of crises for the sport in France.

Jean Fournet-Fayard spent nine years as the most senior official in French football. Jacques Georges, the 77-year-old senior vice-president, was elected interim president until February. Gerard Houllier, the national coach, resigned last Thursday.

Although Fournet-Fayard's decision was prompted by France's 2-1 defeat to Bulgaria on 17 November, dashing hopes of going to the United States next year, it is also a reflection of the bad time the game has had in France. Le Monde said that Mr Fournet-Fayard's three terms of office had covered 'one of the most sinister periods' for French football.

First Division clubs have been relegated for financial mismanagement: last year, shoddy work at Bastia's Furiani stadium caused a stand to collapse, killing 14 fans. This year, Olympique Marseille (OM) were stripped of the European Cup they won in May after charges that club officials had bribed a Valenciennes player to fix a league match.

The malaise is put down to the huge sums invested by television over the past decade. TF1, the commercial first channel, and Canal+, a subscription channel, together pledged Fr200m (pounds 22m) in 1987.

Big money attracted big business - entrepreneurs such as Jean-Luc Lagardere, the head of the Matra electronics firm and Hachette publishers, who briefly ran Racing Paris, renamed Matra-Racing, and Bernard Tapie, the businessman- cum-politician who took over OM.

Local city halls came up with credits for other teams, which went into debt, taking chairmen into prison and first-rate players into the Second Division. Investigations turned up evidence of fraud, phony bills and payments under the table.

In 1989, Roger Bambuck, the sports minister, wrote of 'laxity in the conduct and control of high-level football', a remark seen as a hint that Fournet-Fayard should go. It was to be the last-minute goal in the World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria that brought him down.

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