French referees told to end matches if hooligans' missiles injure players or officials

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Football and public order chiefs in France on Thursday ordered the immediate cancellation of a game if a missile thrown from the stands hits and injures a player or match official.

The measure emerged after a series of meetings between organisers of the professional leagues and top politicians including interior minister Gerald Darmanin, the sports minister Roxana Maracineanu and the justice minister Eric Dupond-Moretti.

Emmanuel Macron's government has been under pressure to respond to a wave of hooliganism around grounds since fans were allowed back into stadiums at the start of the season following limits on numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Images of punch-ups between supporters and players, pitch invasions, hooliganism and fans goading each other have virtually become weekly occurrences in the French top flight since August.

Stop the match!

On 21st of November, the Ligue 1 fixture between Lyon and Marseille was halted within five minutes after the Marseille skipper Dimitri Payet was struck on his head by a full bottle of water.

After two hours of sometimes acrimonious talks with officials and players from both clubs, referee Ruddy Buquet called off the game at the Groupama Stadium.

Nearly a month after the chaos on and off the pitch in Lyon, authorities have laid down a clear protocol to avoid such drift and confusion.

They said a decision should be reached within 30 minutes without the involvement of club owners.

"If a referee or a player is injured by a projectile thrown from the stands the match will be automatically abandoned," the ministries of the interior, justice and sports said in a joint statement.

Action

"There will be a clear dividing line regarding the competence of the match referee and the police over the stopping of matches.

"A clearly thought out, unified and rapid decision must be reached," the statement added.

The clause to exclude top club officials from the decision-making process comes after the Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas received a five-game ban on Wednesday over his behaviour while match officials were weighing up whether the Lyon v Marseille game should resume.

During their discussions, Darmanin, Maracineanu and Dupond-Moretti decided that the measures to bar supporters from stadiums were effective enough, but that they could be applied more rigorously.

No security net was in place at Lyon's stadium nor at Montpellier nor Nice when missiles were hurled at Marseille players.

In an opinion piece for Le Monde, Payet criticised the government and football authorities for their lack of action.

"This is an unbearable form of collective resignation," he wrote.

"I would like to have a reasonable collective responsibility. I would like to be able to defend my idea of football on every pitch in France without asking myself questions about the next gestures of hatred."

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