Sports minister promises sanctions after violent weekend in Ligue 1

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Paris (AFP) – French sports minister Patrick Kanner expressed his “shock and fury” on Monday after a weekend of Ligue 1 violence tarnished the image of hosts France just months ahead of Euro 2016.

The clash between Marseille and Lyon in the Velodrome Stadium on Sunday night was restarted after a 20-minute stoppage caused by missile-throwing fans, while there were also nasty scenes during Saturday’s Ligue 1 match between Bastia and Nice in Corsica as Paris Saint-Germain’s fans ran amok in the streets of Reims after a 1-1 draw.

The incidents come months ahead of the kickoff of Euro 2016 which takes place in 10 cities across France from June 10 to July 10 and as Paris bids to host the 2024 Olympic Games.

“I’m shocked and furious. I know only too well through French bids to host major sporting events the deplorable impact that these images can have on France,” Kanner told AFP.

“I’m furious with those responsible for security in the Velodrome who allowed access to supporters armed with glass bottles.”

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Marseille club president Vincent Labrune also came under fire for his comments blaming the “incidents” on biased referring.

“I’m furious with the words of Mr. Labrune who played down these incidents and blamed the referees,” said Kanner, who said he hoped that “quick and strong” action would be taken against Marseille.

“There are heavy penalties ranging from losing points to the organisation of matches behind closed doors or away. It’s up to the league to take the right action but I hope they will be strong.

“We don’t need this before Euro 2016, during Paris’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics. These images are going around the world, members of the IOC (International Olympic Committee) will see them, it’s deplorable.”

‘Serious lapses’

After an emergency meeting of the French Professional Football League (LFP) in Paris on Monday morning, president Frédéric Thiriez said that Marseille should be given government help to deal with their troublesome fans.

The LFP boss slammed “serious lapses in security at the Vélodrome,” but added, “The club has already announced they they will install safety nets on the corners (in the stands).”

Minister of State for Sport Thierry Braillard also questioned the impact on Euro 2016 with Marseille due to host matches.

“Marseille is a footballing city. The Marseille public is known to be a great public. I think there are security measures that must be respected and we can’t see glass bottles like that in the stands,” Braillard told French radio RTL.

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“Imagine that a bottle had struck a player! What situation would we be in today? It’s unacceptable and I think that we really need to tighten up controls,” said Braillard.

The return of Lyon’s Mathieu Valbuena to face his former club had already made for a charged atmosphere in the southern port city. Lyon were leading 1-0 when play was interrupted as objects, including bottles and cups, rained down from the stands.

The game was restarted after a 20-minute stoppage and finished in a 1-1 draw.

The atmosphere was further fueled by an ongoing feud between the club presidents with Lyon boss Jean-Michel Aulas criticising his Marseille counterpart, who tried to play down the trouble.

“The words of Vincent Labrune are irresponsible, for me he is a clown, and I don’t think he has a future in football,” said Aulas.

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