Corruption probe launched into French Tennis Federation

2 min

Paris (AFP)

France's financial prosecution service (PNF) has opened an investigation into allegations of corruption and embezzlement at the French Tennis Federation (FFT), a judicial source told AFP on Tuesday.

The case relates to possible corruption connected to the sale of tickets for the French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris. The preliminary inquiry was opened on March 19, the source said.

The Paris prosecutor alerted the PNF to the suspicions on March 11 and the PNF transferred the case to the judicial police's anti-corruption office.

The FFT has been rocked by a number of recent controversies, including the firing of managing director Gilbert Ysern in February after weeks of disagreements with president Jean Gachassin.

That move divided French tennis with top players Gilles Simon and Julien Benneteau backing the ousted Ysern.

Other controversies saw Arnaud Clement evicted as Davis Cup captain to be replaced by Yannick Noah, with Clement then suing the FFT for 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million), and Guadeloupe being selected as the venue for a Davis Cup tie against Canada in March.

On February 17 a satirical French newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine, published an article alleging misconduct by Gachassin, accusing him of selling French Open tickets at face value to a travel agent friend who then sold them on at five times their original price.

"In exchange, the FFT president, a former rugby international, was invited by the travel agency to the Six Nations, all expenses paid," wrote another newspaper, the Journal de Dimanche.

That sparked an investigation into the FFT by the French sports ministry.

The Journal de Dimanche claimed to have consulted "dozens of bills and photocopies of cheques demonstrating that numerous leagues resold, during the 1990s and 2000s, their tickets for two to four times their face value", although that system has since been cleaned up by the electronic age.

"If (elected officials) are making money (from selling tickets above face value) that's serious and the Ministry of Justice is right to investigate," said Jeremy Botton, the FFT's interim general manager.

"We'll play the game all the way with the justice system but the media harm has already been done."