The audience was eagerly awaited by the entire sporting world. Monday, June 26, the public rapporteur of the Council of State ruling on the litigation considered non-compliant with the law the regulations of the French Football Federation which prohibits the wearing of religious symbols during official meetings.
In November 2021, the Hijabeuses collective, which brings together players of the Muslim faith, challenged before the administrative judge Article 1 of the FFF regulations which, since 2016, explicitly prohibits the conspicuous wearing of religious symbols during competitions which concern all licensees, professionals and amateurs.
Tattoos, prayers and Maltese crosses
The rapporteur Clément Malverti dismantled one by one all the arguments of the lawyers of the FFF. The rapporteur, whose opinions are generally followed, considers that the duty of neutrality can only be imposed on players of the national team, “who participate in a public service mission”. For the vast majority of the 2 million licensees, it is freedom of expression that must be preserved. It can only be limited in the event of a disturbance of public order, to ensure the proper functioning of the service or to guarantee respect for the freedoms of others.
The football authorities provide no evidence that this is the case in this case. Wearing the veil cannot in itself be considered an act of proselytism or propaganda. The rapporteur disputes the idea of a public order specific to sport and the neutrality of this activity. The world of football is precisely “full of identity signs” as shown by the tattoos, the gestures of prayer of the players when entering the field, assures the rapporteur who still quotes the Maltese cross on the jerseys of AJ Auxerre, a club born of Catholic patronage.
The magistrate denounced a “sanitized vision of sport”. He concluded by stating that limiting users’ freedom of expression would be ” a first “ which could then relate to other fields of social life.
Another front of the collective: the wearing of the burkini
The decision of the administrative judge, if it follows as is likely the Malverti rapporteur, will therefore represent a victory for the activists. The Hijabeuses collective, which formed an association in January, made itself known to the general public by demonstrating in front of the Senate in January 2022 against an amendment brought by Les Républicains aimed at extending the 2004 law prohibiting religious symbols to school at all official sporting events.
Behind the Hijabeuses, we find the Grenoble association Citizen Alliance (AC) which has aroused controversy by defending the wearing of the burkini in swimming pools. On this fight, AC experienced a snub in September 2022. The Council of State canceled the municipality’s regulations authorizing these outfits but it ruled in summary proceedings (in urgency), and it still has to decide this case on the merits. .