French racism row may spark lawsuit

PARIS - French football representatives may face legal action if inquiries uphold allegations that they planned to set racial quotas at youth academies, France's sports minister said in an interview published on Tuesday.

French football was plunged into turmoil last week after investigative website Medipart, citing French football federation (FFF) sources, said FFF technical director Francois Blaquart had proposed enforcing racial quotas to limit the number of players with dual nationalities at football academies. That would affect players of African or Arab origin.

"The first step is to establish the true facts," Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno told the daily Le Parisien.

"If it turns out there were quotas (planned) for dual nationality players, that's a criminal offence. In that case, we'd pass the case to state prosecutor."

Blaquart was suspended on Saturday and coach Laurent Blanc, who took over from Raymond Domenech after France's World Cup fiasco last year in which players boycotted a training session following a row, was also caught up in the controversy.

Mediapart published a verbatim report of a meeting at which Blanc, Blaquart and others held a debate over African players with dual nationality groomed in France who eventually opted to play for their countries of origin.

An investigation by the FFF and an arm of the sports ministry is expected to be finished in less than a week.