‘Crowd problems put future of French football at risk’

Published November 23, 2021
LYON: Olympique de Marseille’s Dimitri Payet is hit by a water bottle during the Ligue 1 match against Olympique Lyonnais at the Groupama Stadium.—AFP
LYON: Olympique de Marseille’s Dimitri Payet is hit by a water bottle during the Ligue 1 match against Olympique Lyonnais at the Groupama Stadium.—AFP

PARIS: Repeated crowd problems in Ligue 1 are putting the future of French football at risk, French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said after Sunday’s game between Olympique Lyonnais and Olympique Marseille was abandoned due to fan violence.

The disciplinary commission of the French League (LFP) on Monday said that Lyon would play their Ligue 1 home games behind closed doors until it rules on the incident on Dec 8 after an investigation.

The French “Olympico” was called off almost two hours after being suspended when Marseille’s Dimitri Payet was hit by a bottle thrown from the Groupama Stadium stands.

Referee Ruddy Buquet sent the players to the dressing room after Payet fell to the ground as he was preparing to take a corner kick.

Payet missed training on Monday and French website RMC Sport reported that Marseille would press charges.

The stadium announcer initially said the match would restart, following a decision made by local Lyon authorities.

This was criticised by the French League (LFP), which called for an emergency meeting of its disciplinary panel on Monday, resulting in Lyon playing home matches without spectators starting with next Wednesday’s game against Stade de Reims.

“They have to come to an agreement, this kind of problem is for the League to solve,” Maracineanu told France Info radio on Monday, her office later saying the sports and interior ministries would meet over the matter on Tuesday.

The interior ministry added that the French federation and the LFP have been summoned to the meeting.

“Everyone must understand that it’s the survival of French soccer that’s at stake,” Maracineanu said.

Similar incidents have marred domestic football since the start of the season, many of them involving Marseille, and LFP said it is destroying the image of the league in France and internationally.

Payet was also hit by a bottle during a game at Nice in August. He had been heckled by Lyon supporters while warming up before kick-off.

Nice were docked a point after the incident with Marseille, who on Wednesday were ordered to play their next home game behind closed doors after trouble during last month’s clash with Paris Saint-Germain.

The game between Nice and Marseille was halted with 15 minutes left and replayed in its entirety two months later on neutral ground in Troyes and without fans.

Nice were also ordered to play three games behind closed doors. Lens incurred a similar punishment following a pitch invasion during September’s northern derby against Lille.

Earlier on Sunday, Amine Gouiri scored twice as Nice rallied past Clermont 2-1 to climb to second place, 11 points behind leaders PSG, after Lens were thrashed 4-0 by Brest. Lens dropped to fourth place, two points behind Nice.

Angers moved into sixth place by edging Lorient 1-0 with a penalty from Thomas Mangani in the 67th.

Strasbourg equalised with the last kick of the game in a 1-1 draw with Reims as substitute Jean-Ricner Bellegarde curled home a free kick in the seventh minute of stoppage time.

St Etienne remained in the relegation zone despite beating Troyes 1-0 with a powerful long-range strike from Peru defender Miguel Trauco in the 61st.

Opa Nguette came off the bench and scored twice to help bottom side Metz rally from a 2-0 deficit and draw 3-3 with Girondins Bordeaux.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2021

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