18 hurt, three seriously in French stadium barrier collapse

Amiens (France) (AFP) – Eighteen Lille fans were hurt, including three seriously, in Amiens on Saturday when a stadium barrier collapsed in the away section as supporters celebrated a goal in French league match.

The Ligue 1 fixture between Amiens and Lille was suspended in the 16th minute, and later abandoned, after a fence separating fans from the pitch crumbled under their weight as they celebrated a goal by Fode Ballo-Toure.

Several supporters tumbled around 1.5 metres down to the side of the pitch and were crushed by fellow fans before emergency services rushed to the scene to tend to the injured.

Ballo-Toure ran towards the section of visiting fans after scoring the opening goal, prompting a surge that caused the barrier to give way.

Both teams were sent to the changing rooms as the match was halted initially before a French league official later said the game had been called off.

Amiens’ Stade de la Licorne is currently undergoing renovation work, with one stand at the compact arena closed for refurbishment.

The stadium is the smallest of the 20 French Ligue 1 clubs.

Repair work on the roofing is taking place throughout the 2017-18 season, Amiens’ first campaign in the top flight in club history. 

“The works are going to start in June and will be done stand by stand, at a rate of one stadium per trimester,” local politician Alain Gest said last May.

“The consequence is that we’re going to lose seats in the ground but we’ll make up for it by adding additional temporary stands.”

Built in 1999, the Stade de la Licorne, situated in the west of the city, can host 12,000 fans and boasts an eye-catching, futuristic design with a transparent roof.

However, Gest suggested that the upkeep has been neglected by local officials.

“It has not been sufficiently maintained by the previous municipalities and posed serious dangers,” he added.

He said a safety audit in 2016 noted that the stadium presented “serious dangers”.

“This forced us to dismantle at the beginning of the year all the glass — almost 2,000 glass plates per tribune.”

The official said the glass plates had to be replaced by “a rigid and transparent plastic material like those used at the stadiums of Le Havre and Nice”.

Gest added that all the seats in the stadium had to be changed as well in a project costed at 7.5 million euros as the promoted club brought their ground up to the level of a Ligue 1 outfit.

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