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‘A red line has been crossed’: French sports minister responds to violent scenes in Nice-Marseille game as probe launched

The clash between the two French rivals was abandoned soon after several dozen Nice fans invaded the pitch behind their goal to remonstrate with Marseille’s former West Ham player Dmitri Payet after the 38-times capped France international playmaker threw a plastic bottle into the stands moments after he had been struck by the same projectile, which knocked him to the ground.

This prompted significant furor in the Nice section of the stand as dozens of fans attempted to storm the pitch to remonstrate with Payet as stewards struggled to hold them back. At least one more bottle was thrown into the crowd during the ensuing fracas.

After a prolonged delay Nice players returned to the field – but Marseille refused to, prompting the match to be abandoned by officials. 

According to France’s delegate minister for sport Maracineanu, there will be serious repercussions for those found to be responsible after she declared that a “red line had been crossed.”

I am fighting against all hate and incivility in stadiums,” she said. “The LFP (French football’s governing body) and the clubs’ representatives have to be responsible and enact common-sense sanctions, in accordance with what’s going on and what they see on the pitch. 

It’s unacceptable that our supporters are throwing objects, are violent and are spilling out on to the pitch. The clubs which host matches are responsible above all for the safety of the players, the coaching staff and the referees, as well as what happens in the stands.

“I reserve the right to press charges against this aggression. I’ve nevertheless seen that the public prosecutor has taken up the case. I hope that the authorities will be able to carry out their work calmly and that there will be criminal charges against those who are designated as responsible, and afterwards I expect the sporting authorities to take the necessary disciplinary action and that an example is made.

“We fought for supporters to return to stadiums and for matches to not be played behind closed doors.”

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As noted by Maracineanu, the public prosecutor in Nice has opened a probe into the violent scenes, with further developments expected in the coming days and weeks. 

The LFP also announced that both clubs have been summoned to a disciplinary commission on Wednesday, during which the “serious incidents” in the stands and on the pitch will be discussed, while the mayor of Nice, Christian Estros, was also heavily critical of the violence. 

This violence is unacceptable,” he said. “Sanctions must be taken by the French football league once they have found out who was responsible.”

To many, Sunday’s incident hints at a wider problem within French football and it came just two weeks after Marseille’s 3-2 win away to Montpellier was halted temporarily when players from both teams were hit with plastic bottles thrown by the crowd.

This is the second time it’s happened,” said Marseille president Pablo Longoria in explaining his team’s decision to not return to the pitch. “We have already experienced this in Montpellier where we decided to continue after the decision to carry on was made.

What happened today is unacceptable. We must make it a precedent for French football and that’s why we decided to return to Marseille.”

© 2021, paradox. All rights reserved.

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