December 7, 2021

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Sports minister wants sanctions after French football violence

French football needs a “radical” reality check following more crowd trouble in the league match between Lyon and Marseille, the country’s sports minister has warned.

The violence on Sunday was the latest in a series of disturbing episodes at French games.

“What happened in Lyon is unacceptable,” sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said.

The match was halted and then abandoned after a water bottle thrown by a fan hit Marseille’s Dimitri Payet on the head in the fourth minute.

Marseille's Matteo Guendouzi gestures as his teammate Dimitri Payet lies on the groundMarseille's Matteo Guendouzi gestures as his teammate Dimitri Payet lies on the ground
Marseille player Dimitri Payet has become the latest footballer to fall victim to fan violence in France, hit by an object thrown from the crowd in Lyon.(AP: Laurent Cipriani)

Similar incidents have marred domestic football since the start of the season, many of them involving Marseille.

The French league said the unrest was “destroying the image of the league in France and internationally”.

The ministry of sports said a meeting between government and soccer officials representing the league, the French federation, clubs and referees would take place on Tuesday.

The ministry said the working session would take stock of the latest incidents and find ways to end them for the rest of the season.

In August, a match between Nice and Marseille was abandoned after fans threw projectiles and invaded the field. Payet was also hit by a bottle in that game, and threw it back at the supporters.

Players and staff members were also involved in a brawl. Nice was subsequently deducted two points, with one point suspended.

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Earlier in the season, Montpellier fans threw projectiles at Marseille players, with Valentin Rongier sustaining a cut to his lip. In September, Angers and visiting Marseille supporters ran onto the field and fought.

Marseille, which is owned by American businessman Frank McCourt, also faced a mutiny from its fans in January when a few hundred forced their way into the club’s training complex hours before a league game.

After the incident, McCourt linked the violence to bigger societal issues, comparing the supporters’ protests to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.

Lyon said the man who threw the bottle at Payet had been identified via CCTV and handed over to police after being removed by stewards.

The seven-time champions insisted he was not a member of an official fan group and was not a season ticket holder.

Lyon said it filed a judicial complaint against him and would like to ban him for life.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, four people have been arrested following Sunday’s match.

The French league condemned the attack on Payet, adding that he was also on the receiving end of “insults of a discriminatory nature”.

Following an urgent meeting of its disciplinary commission, the league ordered Lyon to play its home matches without fans ahead of a final sanction being handed down on December 8. The league will also need to decide whether the match against Marseille, which ended at 0-0, should be replayed.

A group of French football fans stumble on to the pitch, surrounded by security guards during a league game.A group of French football fans stumble on to the pitch, surrounded by security guards during a league game.
There have been several incidents in French football  this season, including a pitch invasion by Lens fans against Lille.(Getty Images: Catherine Steenkeste)

Other clubs have been affected by crowd trouble this season.

In September, fans ran onto the field in Lens in the northern derby with Lille, and fighting broke out in the stands. During a game between PSG and Lyon, a teenager was injured by a thrown seat.

In October, a match between Saint-Etienne and Angers was delayed for about an hour because fans ran onto the field and threw flares before kick-off.

AP

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