Perhaps the greatest distraction for Les Bleus is the implication of 4 of its stars in an international underage prostitution ring. Prostitution is legal in France, as long as the “providers” are at least 18 years old, but if not, the clients may be held liable. If found guilty of the charges the players face a maximum of three years in prison and a fine of up to £40,000 ($57,000). While still in the preliminary stages of investigation, the players have testified and await further developments after the conclusion of the World Cup–not exactly the distraction-free atmosphere you want before the biggest sporting event in the world.
Unfortunately for the French team, the implicated players include Franck Ribery, widely regarded as France’s best player, and Sidney Govou, another potential starter for the team. Ribery has admitted to the allegations, though claiming he was unaware of the girl’s age at the time. These types of scandals have followed professional athletes for years, however they have largely been absent in France due in part to the French privacy laws.
Privacy laws in France prevent the publication of kiss-and-tell stories. This law is based on a single sentence in Article 9 of the Civil Code: “everyone has the right to respect for his or her private life.” French Courts have found that this right protects, among other things, a person’s health, relationships, love life, and other “attributes of personality” such as pictures. Violations of the right to privacy are punishable by up to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to €45,000 ($60,000).
That right was added to the Civil Code in 1970, but the French respect for privacy can be traced back to 1858, when the family of the actress Rachel was awarded damages after the unauthorized publication of a portrait of her on her death bed. In 1995, the right to privacy was declared a constitutional right by the French Constitutional Court.
France is considered one of five or six European teams with the talent necessary to make a run at the trophy in South Africa. Unfortunately for them it appears the cloud of controversy grows darker by the day.
Something to keep an eye on this summer in South Africa.