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FOOTBALL

How France will tackle spike in football hooliganism

Football matches in France will be called off definitively if a player or official is injured by a projectile thrown from the stands, the government has said.

Marseille's French midfielder Dimitri Payet, surrounded by officials, leaves the field holding an ice pack to his head
Marseille's French midfielder Dimitri Payet after he was hit by a bottle of water. (Photo by Philippe Desmazes / AFP

Abandoning games one of a series of measures announced after meetings between Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and French football chiefs in the wake of a
spate of incidents in the French league this season.

The government decided action needed to be taken after a match between Lyon and Marseille on November 21st was brought to a halt when Marseille skipper Dimitri Payet was hit by a plastic bottle thrown from the stands.

“If a referee or a player is injured by a projectile thrown from the stands the match will be automatically abandoned,” the ministries of the interior, justice and sports said in a joint statement.

The authorities took over two hours to reach a decision to call off the November 21st match – it will be replayed behind closed doors.

The government says that is too long to deliberate and that decisions over matches that are halted for non-sporting reasons should be reached in no longer than 30 minutes by a group that does not include the presidents of the football clubs concerned.

The call to prohibit the presidents from the decision-making process comes after Jean-Michel Aulas, Lyon president, received a five-match ban on Wednesday over his behaviour regarding whether the Lyon-Marseille match should resume.

“There will be a clear dividing line regarding the competence of the match referee and the police over the stopping of matches,” the ministerial statement said.

“A clearly thought out, unified and rapid decision must be reached.”

In addition, both the sale of plastic bottles on site and bringing them into the stadium will be barred “by July 1, 2022, at the latest”.

The ministerial troika – Darmanin was assisted by Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu and Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti – decided that the measures in place to bar supporters from stadiums were sufficient, but could be “better applied”.

Ligue 1 and tier two clubs must also have security measures in place from the 2022-23 season against projectiles being thrown, which the regional police chief can order them to install for particular matches.

No security net was in place at Lyon’s stadium nor at matches involving Marseille at Montpellier and Nice in August, when their players were targeted with projectiles.

Payet for his part had criticised the government and football authorities on Wednesday in an op-ed piece published by French daily Le Monde.

“I am surprised that the actors – the government, la Ligue, the clubs – do not assume a little more responsibility,” he wrote, calling it “a collective abrogation of duty.”

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CRIME

French tax agent ‘kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit’

A French tax inspector was kidnapped and killed, reportedly while carrying out a tax audit in a village in northern France on Monday evening.

French tax agent 'kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit'

The 43-year-old tax agent died on Monday night in northern France, with local media Actu Pas-de-Calais reporting that he was killed by the man whom he was auditing, who later died by suicide.

Emergency services were called to the small village of Bullecourt in the Pas-de-Calais département of northern France at around 8pm. Upon arriving they found two men dead and a woman, reported to be another employee of the tax office, tied up.

She was not believed to be seriously injured but was treated for shock. 

The public prosecutor released a statement saying that both tax agents “were carrying out an at-home audit to check the accounts” of the local man reported to be a brocanteur (antique dealer), who then “kidnapped them and tied them up.” 

“The accused then killed himself with a firearm,” according to the prosecutor’s office. 

The mayor of Bullecourt, a small village of 250 inhabitants, told AFP that he remembered the accused antique dealer as a “helpful” and “ordinary person” who had “integrated into the village.”

Gabriel Attal, the Public Accounts Minister, issued a statement on Monday evening expressing his condolences and saying that the tax agent “was simply doing his job” and that “today, he did not return.” The minister lamented that the agent was “killed while completing a tax audit.”

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