“Football should be a celebration. » The words of Gennaro Gattuso, the coach of Olympique de Marseille, spoken on Sunday December 3 after his troops’ victory against Rennes (2-0), resonate sadly with current events. During the night from Saturday to Sunday, a Nantes supporter died following an injury received during an altercation ahead of the match counting for the 14th day of Ligue 1 between FC Nantes and OGC Nice. A new news item involving football supporters in France this season, with a tragic epilogue, which could have consequences for the rest of the season.

“We can’t continue like this in football,” Amélie Oudéa-Castéra said on Monday. If she remained cautious about the death of the Nantes fan, a member of the ultra group the Brigade Loire, while waiting “for the prosecutor to establish the facts to the end”, the Minister of Sports, interviewed on France Inter, estimated that it was was preferable “for the moment to stop on fan travel” in the event of a risky match.

Saturday December 2, an hour before the Nantes-Nice kick-off, a 31-year-old supporter “collapsed” following “a wound in the back that could correspond to a stab weapon,” explained the public prosecutor of Nantes, Renaud Gaudeul. An attack not far from the Beaujoire stadium, which took place after the passage of a procession of Nice fans near the stronghold of the Nantes ultras, aboard around ten VTCs, and which the Nantes prosecutor’s office is investigating. On Monday, the spokesperson for Nantes VTCs, David Tan, spoke in L’Equipe of “an ambush” by Nantes fans, determined to “extract Nice supporters from the cars”, having resulted in “drama”. A VTC driver surrendered during the night and was taken into custody.

A little over a month after the incidents on the sidelines of Marseille (OM)-Lyon (OL), where the bus carrying Lyon players and staff was stoned by OM supporters, seriously injuring the face of the now ex- coach Fabio Grosso – sacked by OL on November 30 – incidents continue to punctuate the French championship season. Almost two weeks earlier, two Brest supporters were slightly injured after their bus was the target of projectiles following a victory in Montpellier. And earlier in the season, a match between Montpellier and Clermont-Ferrand was interrupted after a firecracker exploded near Clermont goalkeeper Mory Diaw.

“Basta, that’s enough” for the minister

So many events that the Professional Football League (LFP) would have done well without, engaged in over-the-counter negotiations to sell its television rights for the 2024-2029 seasons, after the failure of the call for tenders to autumn.

On Monday, Amélie Oudéa-Castera called for “a global initiative and a global response. A radical situation, radical measures”, ensuring to be on the same line as Vincent Labrune, the president of the LFP. “It’s just not possible that we have law enforcement that is so stretched, property destroyed, buses stoned, people injured, now a dead person,” she insisted. “Basta, that’s enough! »

The eruptive question of outbursts in football is not recent. “This type of violence is more or less a regular chronicle of French football since the 1980s. The phenomenon had certainly lost its scale, but it is still part of the ordinary of football,” observed sociologist Patrick Mignon in 2021, when the stadiums and their surroundings suffered an upsurge in violence, following the Covid-19 pandemic.

To deal with these excesses, the authorities resorted to administrative travel bans. Introduced in 2011, this system was initially intended to remain exceptional and be justified by real risks of “unacceptable disturbance to public order”. It quickly became “an easy solution for certain prefectures”, related the sociologist Nicolas Hourcade, cited by L’Equipe in 2020. To the point that in 2019, the government put in place measures to avoid “falling into the trivialization” of these bans, which sometimes mobilize more law enforcement than a travel authorization – and raise questions of freedom of movement.

The meeting between Nantes and Nice on Saturday was classified as “level 2 risk” (out of 5) by the National Division for the Fight against Hooliganism, due to the antagonism between supporters of the two cities for around ten years. In this context, and “considering the tense context of this start of the season during football matches” (according to the prefectural decree), the movement of Nice fans had to be supervised by the police.

After the words of the Minister of Sports, will travel bans be more systematized, including during meetings not classified as risky? One thing is certain, on Wednesday December 6, no Lyon supporters will be allowed to travel to Marseille for the late match between the two Olympics. The Bouches-du-Rhône prefecture has banned the arrival of OL supporters for this meeting rescheduled after the stone crushing of the Lyon bus. “Above all, I hope that nothing negative will happen and that it will be a day of celebration,” concluded Fabio Grosso on Sunday, marked by the Nantes news story.