The 2021-2022 season had been marred by numerous incidents, of various kinds, which finally led the public authorities and the government to get involved. For the resumption of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, the LFP has introduced a series of measures, some already decided last December, which aim to contain all forms of excesses. The main question remains: what place will the first concerned, the supporters, occupy in this new security configuration?
Dimitri Payet collapsing after receiving a bottle, chaotic invasion of the field at Geoffroy-Guichard after the relegation of Saint-Etienne, not to mention a pitched battle between supporters during PFC-OL in the Coupe de France… French football has experienced, last season, a crescendo of tensions in and around its stadiums, which caused a slight wind of panic in the football authorities, and even among the public authorities (and naturally on the TV sets). If such incidents had been able to occur in the past, their concentration and their succession just after the post-Covid return of the public to the stands had led to the holding of a series of meetings and consultations between the various protagonists (ministries, clubs, federations, leagues, etc.), with the general exception of supporters’ associations. At the beginning of July, the League also hosted a seminar on the subject, with a practical case study in support, with the security managers of the clubs.
To manage to contain bad habits in the stands, we first turned to stewardship. Since 1er July, plastic bottles and all that is “capable of being used as projectiles» are prohibited for sale (according to the regulations of the LFP). A decision which nevertheless made some teeth cringe, the refreshment bar remaining a significant source of income. Then, and above all, anti-projection and anti-intrusion nets will be generalised. This was one of the strong announcements of the famous coordination unit between the Ministry of the Interior, Justice, Sports, the LFP and the FFF. If visually, the result is often reminiscent of a dystopia by Enkie Bilal, or, at best, gives rise to ridiculous choreographies, these devices prove to be the only effective solution in the face of the endemic evil of throwing objects, for example during corners. .
For the public authorities, the reflection also concerns stewards and security guards. The idea of professionalizing the sector, and increasing its control by the authorities, is gaining ground. The concern is not only to upgrade this profession, or to provide better training. Many questions weigh on this staff, sometimes from the stands (which also represents an advantage in terms of dialogue), with the suspicion of complacency when pyrotechnic equipment or other banners enter, or even during the invasion of the grounds. However, given their salaries and their numbers, it’s understandable that they don’t have fun, or simply can’t, compete against hundreds of very determined people.
Last essential point, that of the coordination between the actors. OGCN-OM had illustrated dramatic failures, to remain courteous, in the management of a crisis situation, each throwing on the other the responsibility of stopping the match or not, leaving the referee alone in front of the cameras and the opinion. Hence the assignment of a referent police officer per club in order to facilitate daily work, including in the event of a problem during a meeting. All of these decisions remain geared towards the identification and control of risk matches. If the press or social networks manage to predict them, the prefects and club management can surely also achieve it…
However, the blind spot remains the relations and the relationship with the supporters and in particular their associations. “There are criminals within our walls. We have to get them out of the stadiums“, had declared Vincent Labrune, alarmist, in front of the AG of the FFF. The sentence was strong, the vocabulary hardly adapted, and it always testified to a certain form of assimilation between hooligans and ultras, even if indeed the question of violence in the stadiums is not limited to hooliganism. A few clashes around pre-season friendlies, between Nice and Torino or Aston Villa and Rennes, inspired cold sweats in the league, although Lens-West Ham went rather well.
How will the fragile dialogue between supporters’ associations and the LFP evolve? What about the legacy of the National Support Authority, established by Roxana Marcineanu? How will certain claims on smoke bombs or travel bans be heard? Finally, which line will prevail between individual sanctions and collective punishments? The fiasco of the management of the Champions League final at the Stade de France had illustrated the persistence of a certain culture, almost ideological, of maintaining order before, during and after the matches. An approach that first perceives the bearer as a problem to be managed and a potential danger, rather than a person with their rights, to be accompanied or even protected. What will be, moreover, the position of the new Minister of Sports, who seems mainly focused on the Olympics and who has a very poor command of the codes of football, especially in its popular facet? The choice to entrust a report on the excesses of the supporters to the criminologist Alain Bauer, a great specialist in almost everything on TV sets, does not really reassure. Both by his ignorance of the file and by his usual orientation in terms of security…
By Nicolas Kssis-Martov