France set up commission over 'race quotas'

The French Football Federation's internal commision set up to probe allegations concerning race quotas will present their conclusions on Thursday, according to reports in France.

Last week's allegations by the Mediapart website accused senior national team officials, including head coach Laurent Blanc, of plotting to introduce quotas limiting the numbers of ethnic minority players in the France side.

L'Equipe reported today that a meeting of the FFF's federal council has been convened for next Thursday to hear the outcome of the inquiry into the affair, with the commission's interview with Blanc having been delayed until early next week having originally been scheduled for yesterday.

Sports minister Chantal Jouanno will await the commission's conclusions before determining what action, if any, will be taken but told Sud-Radio this morning: "The idea of quotas is completely idiotic and has no place in the sport.

"It is an absolute nonsense, the only thing which counts is to pick the best players from a physical and mental point of view."

FFF president Fernand Duchaussoy claimed last night that he had been prompted to address the issue ahead of the commission's final summary after the issue threatened to place "the honour of a sport" under scrutiny.

In an impassioned statement on the organisation's website, he said: "The honour of football is to be against all forms of selection which do not deal exclusively with sporting matters. It is to say and demonstrate that the word 'quota' cannot be applied when it designates ethnicity or race. Neither scouting nor training can be filtered on racial grounds.

"The honour of football is also a principle: the freedom to choose. French football has no call to overcome the established rules and must respect this freedom. The choice of a dual-qualified player is sovereign.

"Football is a universal, democratic and indiscriminate sport, a ground for the creation of social links. The idea of rejecting this goes against its popular and universal essence.

"Accusing football of racism is hurtful to thousands of trainers who, all over the country, commit their time and energy to clubs and young footballers with no discrimination by race, religion or nationality.

"Hundreds of thousands of youngsters from all backgrounds find, in football, a chance to integrate. This is why I fight, and will continue to fight, for the honour of football."

On the date of Blanc's hearing, Jouanno later insisted to L'Equipe: "I have promised confidentiality to Laurent Blanc, so I won't say where or when he will be interviewed."

The alleged quotas would limit the number of black players and those of north African origin entering national training centres and academies at the age of 12.

Lyon forward Bafetimbi Gomis - born in France to Senegalese parents - won five caps for Les Bleus between 2008 and 2009 and said: "I chose to play for France despite the origins of my parents. I feel that France is my country and I dream of being called up again.

"What is important for French football is to be winning World Cups, regardless of the colour of the players in the side. But it's true that you must consider yourself French to play for the France team."

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