Paris (AFP) – Local authorities in Nice on Monday ordered a four-match stand closure and local police arrested a man as investigations continued into the ugly incidents which led to the abandonment of Nice’s weekend Ligue 1 match with Marseille.
The prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes department said the Popular South stand at the Allianz Riviera in Nice would be closed after fans threw projectiles which led to serious incidents on Sunday during the Nice-Marseille fixture.
“In view of the seriousness of the incidents that occurred, and without waiting for the sanctions to be decided by the professional football league (LFP), 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.
Nice supporters invaded the pitch and confronted Marseille’s Dimitri Payet, who had thrown a bottle lobbed at him back into the crowd. A brawl then broke out involving players and spectators.
A 28-year-old man suspected of attacking a Marseille player was arrested and taken into custody on Monday evening, police and judicial sources told AFP.
The man was presumably a fan of the home team, the Nice prosecutor, Xavier Bonhomme, told AFP.
Earlier his office announced that it had opened several investigations, notably for “throwing projectiles” and “aggravated violence”.
The (LFP) released a short statement saying it had summoned the two clubs to a hearing on Wednesday and “strongly condemned the violence”.
The hosts were leading the Mediterranean derby 1-0 when the game was interrupted in the 75th minute as Payet threw a bottle back into the crowd as team-mates came across to remonstrate with Nice fans behind the goal.
Supporters streamed onto the pitch and a melee began involving players, staff, fans and stewards. Marseille coach Jorge Sampaoli had to be restrained by members of his own staff.
The match was halted for over an hour and finally abandoned after Marseille refused to return to the pitch.
In farcical scenes, the Nice players came back out and the referee placed the ball by the corner flag where the game had been stopped, before blowing his whistle.
The league said it aligned itself with local authorities who wanted to restart the game “to guarantee public order”.
The LFP must decide whether to replay the game or award Nice a victory because Marseille refused to return to the pitch.
– ‘Provocative actions –
“The league wanted the match to restart. We decided for the safety of our players, who were attacked during the pitch invasion, not to resume,” said Marseille president Pablo Longoria, adding the referee “was with us” and decided to stop the game.
Nice, meanwhile, blamed Marseille for fanning the flames.
“While nothing can excuse the actions of a few individuals guilty of throwing bottles…there is no doubt that it was the attitude and actions of several members of Olympique de Marseille that saw the incident escalate out of control,” Nice said in a statement.
They claimed one Marseille assistant coach knocked out a supporter who “remains in hospital” and said two Nice players — Justin Kluivert and Jean-Clair Todidbo — were attacked by Marseille security staff.
“One should not overlook the provocative actions of several Marseille players in the first half which only added to tensions around the stadium.”
There were also reports of incidents in the VIP box involving the presidents of the two clubs.
The match was attended by over 32,000 fans with spectators allowed back inside stadiums in France after almost all of last season was played out behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions.
Politicians called for punishments to be handed out to those responsible.
Roxana Maracineanu, France’s Minister Delegate in charge of sport, said those guilty should be punished “if we can find them…I think there needs to be punishments for the club in question.”
Christian Estrosi, the centre-right mayor of Nice, got involved too, tweeting: “Violence is always intolerable. There must be punishments after (the league) has determined who was responsible.”
“The behaviour of some supporters was unspeakable but so was that of the Marseille president in the stands and the coach on the field,” he added.