Paris FC v Lyon: football chiefs face moment of truth in fight against hooligans

·4-min read

French football faces a defining week following another explosion of violence within a stadium less than 24 hours after three government ministers and the sport's top administrators laid out a tough plan to crackdown on the thuggery that has infested grounds since the start of the season.

The French football federation will meet on Tuesday to plough through the incidents that led the last-64 Coupe de France tie between second tier Paris FC and Ligue 1 giants Lyon to be abandoned at half-time.

Lyon - who were in trouble with the disciplinary authorities over missiles thrown onto the field at their ground last month - could be kicked out of the competition.

Paris FC could also be sanctioned for lax security on Friday night at the 20,000 seat Stade Charlety on the southern fringes of Paris.

As unedifying as the scenes of hooliganism at the ground was the subsequent Punch and Judy show.

Claims

Soon after the referee Jeremy Stinat called off the match, Paris FC president Pierre Ferracci and his Lyon counterpart, Jean-Michel Aulas, were airing their views and baring their teeth in the media following yet another ugly snippet from a lengthening reel of horrors involving venom based lifeforms in the stands.

Aulas claimed some undercover Paris Saint-Germain fans had started the provocation of the Lyon diehards. Ferracci asserted the Lyon ultras had come looking for trouble.

Aulas insisted society was to blame. Ferracci said a lovely evening of football had been ruined.

At least that statement was incontrovertible. Paris FC - in the hunt for promotion from Ligue 2 - had been holding their own against Lyon who have won the Coupe de France five times.

And when the teams went in for half-time at 1-1, an intriguing passage of play was impending.

But the 17,000-odd spectators braving the chilly December night air never savoured that feast. Instead they were presented with lupine ferocity.

Tribute

On Sunday, less than 48 hours after the debacle, Paris FC issued a statement hailing the fans from both teams who had behaved impeccably.

Addressing the violence, the statement added: “We must eradicate this absolute evil that is eating away at football. The time has come for radical measures that target first and foremost the cowardly, violent and sometimes hooded thugs … It is also time to put an end to the associations that tolerate these hooligans.

“It is also time that clubs, whatever their status, faced with these associations, no longer tolerate the slightest laxity with regard to these individuals, who are perfectly identifiable.”

Ban

Lyon on Saturday banned its supporters from travelling to away matches.

A club statement said its security teams were analysing video footage of Friday night’s clashes. “They will use all the tools at their disposal to punish each person who is identified,” said the statement.

“Olympique Lyonnais will apply the maximum sanctions with force and determination, including a lifetime ban from the stadium.

No matter who ultimately ascends to the high ground or the next round after the rants and recriminations, French football faces an existential moment of truth.

Crowd trouble in Lens, Nice and Saint-Etienne has pockmarked the season.

And a lack of firmness and clarity over the details of staging a game could encourage further slipperiness through the yawning loopholes.

For example, Paris FC claimed there were not enough stewards for the travelling Lyon fans.

Lyon officials hinted the security at Stade Charlety was not adequate.

The claims conjoin to make the rules governing French football seem as fluid as the regulations for the last lap of a championship-deciding Formula 1 race.

Protocol

The violence in Paris erupted just a day after a troika of top politicians and football chiefs met on 16 December to install a comprehensible protocol.

They declared that if a player or match official were to be injured by missiles hurled from the stands, the referee would be allowed to call off the game within 30 minutes without interference from club presidents.

On Friday night, it took officials 50 minutes to end the affair. During the wait there were no announcements for the waiting fans through the public address system.

Admittedly, Friday night's decision was mercifully swifter than the two hours taken before Lyon v Marseille was abandoned on 21 November after Dimitri Payet was hit on the head by a full bottle of water flung from the stands at the Groupama Stadium in Lyon.

Nearly a month later and some 400 kilometres north, and Lyon fans are allegedly at the heart of more shenanigans.

After the game with Marseille, Lyon were docked a point and ordered to replay the match. And they’re back in the dock.

“More than ever, we must eradicate these phenomena of hooliganism and ban all those who are enemies, through their actions, of football, but also of the clubs they claim to be supporting,” said Lyon's statement.

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