Ligue 1 must crack down on fan violence before it’s too late | League 1


Funrest is not new in French football. In the last decade alone, Bastia supporters threw wooden sticks at PSG players, Anthony Lopes was hit by a firecracker while playing for Lyon and an effigy of Mathieu Valbuena was hanged at the Velodrome. There have been other incidents as well, but they have been rare and generally the product of a particular enmity between two clubs, or a player and a club.

This season, however, these clashes have taken on a more urgent character, as striking in their gravity as their frequency. The rest of Europe is not immune to horrific incidents, as we saw at Wembley this week when Hungarian fans clashed with police, and earlier in the season when young supporters of Sparta Prague booed Rangers player Glen Kamara. But the number of incidents in Ligue 1 is alarming.

Bastia fan hits PSG player Lucas Moura with a stick in 2016. Photograph: Pascal Pochard Casabianca / AFP / Getty Images

There is a strong history of making one’s voice heard in French society, as evidenced by the yellow vests protests (which seriously upset the Ligue 1 calendar during the 2018-19 season) and, more recently, in the series of protests against the Covid-19 vaccine passports. But there seems something uglier and more menacing in the ire of football fans.

To trace the roots of the protests, violence and unrest this season, we have to go back to January, when Marseille fans – if you can call them that – invaded their training ground to protest against what they considered to be. a lack of ambition of their club. . At a time when supporters weren’t even allowed into stadiums, ultras marched through the gates of the training ground and set off fireworks, firecrackers and smoke bombs, causing fires and even injuring defender lvaro González.

The fans finally got their wish. Marseille reacted to their anger by appointing Pablo Longoria president and strengthening its workforce this summer. Perhaps other fans have taken note as the anger shown by Marseille supporters in January spread throughout France. Instead of just being back in the stadiums, the seething anger boiled over after the supporters were reintroduced to the pitches.

The opening weekend of the season was to be a moment of joy for fans in France, who returned to the stadiums for the first time in 18 months, but football was eclipsed by violence from the start. The match between Montpellier and Marseille was marred by objects thrown into the crowd, including a bottle that hit Marseille midfielder Valentin Rongier in the mouth. The referee interrupted the match, but play continued after 12 minutes. This has been the model in France – officials stop action if necessary but try to end the game so as not to further annoy home fans.

Montpellier are known to have a pretty fiery atmosphere, but Marseille are not among their natural rivals so the violence came as a surprise. Montpellier’s security chief, Pierre-Marie Grappin, warned supporters over loudspeaker that they risked giving Marseille the best gift and the match went off without further incident, Marseille winning 3 -2. In the process, Montpellier was hit by a partial closure of the stadium, with manager Olivier Dall’Oglio deploring: “It’s still regrettable because it penalizes everyone.”

Marseille returns to the news a fortnight later following an incident that began in the same way, with bottles being thrown on the ground. Dimitri Payet, no doubt frustrated at having undergone such treatment twice in two weeks, returned the bottle to the crowd. If Payet’s actions were reckless, the supporters’ reaction was doubly so, as they stormed the pitch, colliding with several Marseille players and staff.

A Nice supporter invades the lawn to face Marseille player Dimitri Payet.
A Nice supporter invades the lawn to face Marseille player Dimitri Payet. Photograph: Valéry Hache / AFP / Getty Images

Marseille coach Jorge Sampaoli was apoplectic. Initially he must have been restrained from the scrum by his back room staff, then when it looked like play was about to resume he put on his backpack and walked out. The match was finally abandoned after 70 minutes, with Nice leading 1-0. Nice received a deduction of two points, one of which was suspended, and the game will be replayed in its entirety in Troyes in two weeks.

Once again, the home fans took a toll on their team. The race for qualification for the Champions League has no shortage of contenders so putting a serious scorer against a direct competitor would have done wonders for the confidence of Nice, which was only three games away from the tenure of Christophe Galtier.

Things have hardly improved in recent weeks. The Derby du Nord between Lens and Lille last month saw the two groups of supporters misbehave – albeit towards each other and not towards the players – as they climbed the fence between them as a scrum delayed the match of almost an hour. This match was played to its end, Lens winning 1-0, but they were hit with a ground shutdown in their next home game, against Strasbourg.

Fights between Lensiens and Lille supporters during their September match.
Fights between Lensiens and Lille supporters during their September match. Photography: Jean Catuffe / LiveMedia / Shutterstock

A similar theme arose a few days later, when Marseille supporters clashed with their Angers counterparts, with the two groups of supporters invading the pitch to brawl. The violence only continues – a brawl between Bordeaux and Montpellier supporters left half a dozen people in hospital, and Metz supporters gave PSG supporters an unfriendly welcome the same weekend, in throwing bottles.

Things are not going better in Ligue 2, where there have been a few incidents in recent weeks. Le Havre striker Khalid Boutaïb briefly brawled with a fan last month, and objects were thrown onto the pitch when Ajaccio greeted Niort.

Marseille and Angevin supporters clashed in September.
Marseille and Angevin supporters clashed in September. Photography: Mathieu Pattier / SIPA / Shutterstock

The problem seems to be getting worse. Serious injury or worse becomes inevitable. Marseille shared images of their players’ injuries on social media after the Nice pitch invaded. Fortunately, none of them were forcibly hospitalized.

The LFP acted decisively by granting partial or total stadium bans, but were reluctant to allow point deductions. If the league and its financial watchdog, the DNCG, are content to relegate clubs based on their financial situation, shouldn’t point deductions be more easily deployed in these cases? And can’t the authorities help the clubs by increasing security? The ease and speed with which the supporters entered the pitch in Nice was truly frightening and the situation would have been much worse without the intervention of several Nice players. If action is not taken quickly, Ligue 1 could soon acquire a much more worrying reputation.

This is an article from Get French Football News
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