PARIS (AP) – French soccer needs to adopt “radical awareness” after a new episode of violence by fans in a league match between Lyon and Marseille, the country’s sports minister said on Monday.
The violence on Sunday is the latest in a series of alarming incidents in France.
“What happened in Lyon is intolerable,” said Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu. “We need sanctions and that all football players respond with comprehensive, immediate and radical awareness.”
The classic was suspended after the Marseille midfielder Dimitri Payet was hit on the head by a bottle of water that was thrown by a fan when just four minutes had elapsed and the score was 0-0.
“Dimitri Payet has my full support,” said Maracineanu. “We cannot allow footballers to be attacked in this way. Such acts must lead to the immediate interruption of games at the very least.”
Similar incidents have rocked the French championship since the start of the current season, with Marseille involved in several. The French league noted that the violence is “destroying the image of the league in France and abroad.”
The sports ministry reported that on Tuesday a meeting will be held between the government and leaders of the league, the French federation, clubs and referees. The purpose of the meeting will be to analyze recent incidents and find ways to stop them for the remainder of the season.
In August, the match between Nice and Marseille was called off when fans fired projectiles and stormed onto the pitch. Payet was also hit by a bottle in that game, knocking it back into the stands. Players and team employees were involved in the brawl. A couple of points were deducted from Nice as a sanction, although one was suspended.
At the start of the season, Montpellier fans threw objects at Marseille players, with midfielder Valentin Rongier suffering a cut on his lip. In September, Angers and supporters of visiting Marseille stormed onto the pitch to fight each other.
According to the sports daily L’Equipe, four people have been arrested for what happened on Sunday.
The French league deplored the attack on Payet, adding that the player was also the focus of “insults of a discriminatory nature.”
After an emergency meeting of its disciplinary commission, the league said it announced that Lyon will have to play without an audience in their stadium, until a final decision is made on December 8. The league will also have to decide whether the match against Marseille should be repeated.