A petition was brought before the Conseil d'État by two associations that wanted the French Football Federation (FFF) to authorise the wearing of the hijab, and by the Human Rights League (France), who challenged the ban on wearing “any sign or clothing clearly showing political, philosophical, religious or union affiliation” during play. The court ruled that sports federations responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the public service entrusted to them can legally require their players to wear neutral clothing during competitions and sporting events to ensure the smooth running of matches and prevent any clashes or confrontation. It took the view that the ban imposed by the FFF is appropriate and proportionate.
Under Article 1 of its articles of association, the French Football Federation prohibits "the wearing of any sign or clothing clearly showing political, philosophical, religious or union affiliation” as well as “any act of proselytism or propaganda” at competitions or events organised by or in connection with the Federation. The Human Rights League (France) and two other associations asked the Conseil d'État to overturn this ban.
The Conseil d'État pointed out that the principle of neutrality in the public service applies to sports federations, which are in charge of a public service. Their staff and, more generally, all persons over whom they have authority, must refrain from expressing their personal beliefs and opinions. This obligation of neutrality also applies to all persons selected for one of the French teams during the events and competitions in which they participate.
It is also the responsibility of the federations to determine the rules for participation in their competitions or sporting events, including those relating to dress and equipment to ensure the safety of players and compliance with the rules of the game. Although licensees are not subject to the obligation of neutrality imposed on the federations' employees and the players in the French national teams, the rules of participation laid down by the federations may limit their freedom to express their opinions and beliefs to ensure the proper functioning of the public service and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The Conseil d'État ruled that, to ensure that football matches run smoothly and to avoid any clashes or confrontations, the FFF was entitled to impose the contested ban. It found that the ban was appropriate and proportionate.