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Bob Edme/AP/Press Association Images France coach Laurent Blanc denied the allegations at a press conference on Friday.
# France
Official suspended as inquiry launched into French football 'racial quota' row
The French Football Federation’s technical director Francois Blaquart has been suspended amid allegations of a project to enforce racial quotas in France’s famed youth academies.

THE FRENCH FOOTBALL Federation has suspended one of its most senior officials and launched an internal inquiry into allegations that officials secretly backed a racial quota for trainees at the country’s famed youth academies.

National technical director Francois Blaquart has been suspended, Reuters reports, as an eight day investigation begins into the allegations that have rocked French football.

On Thursday, the French investigative website Médiapart published a report which claimed to reveal systematic racial discrimination against young football players in the French national training programme.

The report said that academies had been asked to recruit no more than 30 per cent of their players over the age of 12 or 13 from the country’s black and Arab population.

France won the World Cup in 1998 with a team dubbed ‘Black-Blanc-Beur’ (Blacks, Whites and Arabs) by French media and has produced a long line of footballers from non-white French backgrounds including Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry.

Médiapart, citing internal sources at the FFF, claims that officials from the federation discussed the secret quota at a meeting of its National Development Programme last November.

It adds that current national team coach Laurent Blanc responded favourably to the proposals citing the world champions Spain as an example:

“The Spanish, they say ‘we don’t have a problem. We have no blacks’”.

Blanc has strongly denied the allegations in an interview with French sports newspaper L’Equipe on Friday, saying the project “does not exist” and describing the allegations as “false”.

However, the former World Cup winner has courted controversy over racially sensitive issues since becoming national coach, reports France 24.

One of the first things he did as coach was to ban Halal meat from the players’ meals.

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He has also complained often of dual nationality players in France who have been trained in some capacity by the national federation only to then choose to play for another country.

France’s sports minister Chantal Jouanno had asked the federation to investigate the matter.

Its head Fernand Duchaussoy denied any such quota had been agreed but agreed to an investigation adding he was confident there was no wrongdoing, reports the BBC.

The suspension of Blaquart was announced in a statement from the sports minister this afternoon.