Sports minister wants sanctions after French soccer violence

AP , Monday 22 Nov 2021

French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said domestic soccer needs a ``radical and immediate`` reality check following crowd trouble in Sunday's league match between Lyon and Marseille, the latest in a series of violent episodes.

Marseille s French midfielder Dimitri Payet (C) receives a bottle of water from the grandstand during the French L1 football match between Olympique Lyonnais and Olympique de Marseille at the Groupama stadium in Decines-Charpieu, near Lyon, south-eastern France, on November 21, 2021. (AFP)

``What happened in Lyon is unacceptable,`` Maracineanu said.

The match was halted after a fan struck Marseille player Dimitri Payet on the head with a bottle filled with water in the fourth minute.

``Dimitri Payet has my full support,`` Maracineanu said. ``We cannot allow players to be assaulted in this way. Such acts should result in an automatic stoppage of games at the very least.``

Similar incidents have marred domestic soccer since the start of the season, many of them involving Marseille, and the French league said they are ``destroying the image of the league in France and internationally.``

In August, a match between Nice and the 1993 European champion 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.

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 invaded the pitch and fought.

According to L'Equipe newspaper, four people, including the man who threw the bottle at Payet, 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.``

Ahead of Monday's emergency meeting of its disciplinary commission, the league said security at matches is the responsibility of the host club and local authorities.

Other clubs have been affected by crowd trouble this season.

In September, fans invaded the pitch 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 seat thrown.

In October, a match between Saint-Etienne and Angers was delayed for about an hour because of a pitch invasion and flares being thrown onto the pitch before kickoff.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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