French soccer chairman charged with sexual assault: prosecutor

Rennes, France, Feb 5, 2020 (AFP) -The chairman of top-flight French football club Angers was charged Wednesday with sexual assault, a prosecutor said Wednesday, in the latest scandal to rock sports in the country.

Three employees and one former employee filed complaints against 55-year-old Said Chabane, who was detained for questioning earlier in the day, prosecutor Eric Bouillard said.

Chabane was charged with sexual assault by "a person who abuses the authority conferred on him by his role," Bouillard added.

The investigation was opened in January after three women -- one an employee of the Ligue 1 side, the other former staffers -- came forward with allegations against the club's chief.

A fourth woman, who had been identified by investigators as a potential victim, also filed a complaint on Wednesday.

The four were all aged between 20 and 25 at the time of the alleged assaults, which took place between 2014 and 2019, Bouillard said.

Some of the women allege they were caressed in a forceful way in intimate areas by Chabane.

The club had earlier issued a statement saying Chabane rejected all the allegations against him and would fully cooperate with investigators.

"He will offer the judicial authorities all the elements needed to re-establish the truth and preserve his honour," it said.

Angers are currently placed 13th in Ligue 1.

The case comes as the sport of ice skating in France was rocked by claims from former world championship bronze medallist Sarah Abitbol that she was raped by coach Gilles Beyer from 1990 to 1992, starting when she was just 15 years old.

An investigation into those allegations has also been launched.

Beyer, 62, has admitted to having had "intimate" and "inappropriate" relations with Abitbol, and told AFP he was "sincerely sorry".

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