A four match closure of the south stand of OGC Nice’s stadium has been ordered following the fan pitch invasion that led to an all-out brawl in the Nice-Marseille match on the weekend.
The Nice public prosecutor’s office opened several investigations following Sunday’s incident, and a man suspected of having attacked an Olympique de Marseille (OM) player has been taken into custody.
“In view of the seriousness of the incidents that occurred, and without waiting for the sanctions that the professional football league (LFP) will decide on, the prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes has taken the following decisions this evening: closure of the Populaire Sud stand where the incidents occurred for the next four home matches,” wrote prefect Bernard Gonzalez in a statement.
The Ligue 1 match was stopped after supporters invaded the pitch following an incident that ignited the match: yet another plastic bottle was thrown at Dimitri Payet, which the player threw back into the crowd. Nice were at the time leading 1-0.
After a 90-minute delay, the match was abandoned by the referee, Benoît Bastien, following the refusal of Marseille players to come back out onto the pitch.
“We decided for the safety of our players, who were attacked during the pitch invasion, not to resume because the safety of our players was not guaranteed, “said OM President Pablo Longoria in a video sent to the media.
“The referee agreed with us, he confirmed to (Marseille coach) Jorge Sampaoli and me that safety was not guaranteed and decided to stop the game,” Longoria continued, calling for sanctions.
“What happened today is completely unacceptable, we must set a precedent for French football.”
The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) said on Monday that it “strongly condemns the violence”, which it described as “extremely serious”.
“The LFP’s disciplinary committee is now in charge of this case,” she said, as the two clubs are due to appear before it on Wednesday.
OGC Nice has said it will install an anti-projectile net as soon as possible in the stadium which it holds the lease for.
The objective of the Nice stadium manager is to have this 70-metre wide and 16-metre high net deployed in front of the Allianz Riviera’s southern corner for the Nice-Montpellier match on 7 November.
The incident was the latest football trouble for France on the third weekend of the new season which has seen crowds return to stadiums after a year behind closed doors.
One week earlier, a match between Montpellier and OM was halted after supporters also threw bottles onto the pitch.
Payet throws the bottle back
With Nice leading by a Kasper Dolberg goal, Marseille’s Dimitri Payet went to take a corner in the 75th minute.
Not for the first time, he was subjected to a barrage of plastic bottles from opposing supporters, and on this occasion, he responded.
In the first half, on the same side of the field, the stadium announcer had already asked supporters not to throw anything on the pitch.
After being hit by one of the projectiles, the French international and former West Ham player collapsed to the ground before getting up and grabbing the bottle that had hit him and throwing it towards the stand.
Payet’s teammates Alvaro Gonzalez and Mattéo Guendouzi then ran over to confront the section of the crowd.
A security cordon of stewards, dressed in yellow vests, tried to stop the supporters, but blows were exchanged in various areas of the pitch in an unseemly scrum between players of the two teams, supporters and stewards.
The mayor of Marseille, Benoît Payan, reacted on Twitter: “Injured players, failing security: the match should never have been resumed. Sad decision. Proud of my team, which did not play along with this farce.”
OGC Nice, who had wanted to carry on playing, condemned the bottle-throwing, but said that “the tipping point” was “the irresponsible attitude of several members of the Marseille club”.
“I know very well that the match could have resumed. I was convinced that it would go very well. Unfortunately, the Marseille players did not wish to resume the match”, said Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivère at a post-match news conference.
“There is no excuse for the throwing of bottles by several isolated individuals,” the club later said in a statement.
“[But] the fact remains that the tipping point was the irresponsible attitude of several members of the Marseille club”.
Cuts and bruises
Photos circulated on social media showed injuries to Marseille players, Luan Peres suffering cuts to the neck, and Payet with a scratched back.
As anger spilt over, Marseille coach Sampaoli had to be held back by members of his staff to prevent him from fighting.
In the stands, the two club chairmen Longoria and Rivère almost came to blows.
“They grabbed each other by the collar and the bodyguards had to separate them,” a witness told AFP in the presidential gallery.
Following last week’s incidents during the Montpellier match (which OM won 3-2), the Butte Paillade stand usually occupied by Montpellier’s ultras was closed for Sunday’s match against Lorient.