Lens bans fans for up to 18 months for pitch invasion

Paris (AFP) –


Lens on Friday banned a number of identified fans for up to 18 months following the pitch invasion during their home derby with Lille.

The club's general manager Arnaud Pouille told a press conference that the club had also imposed suspended sentences of up to 36 months.

"In some cases, these bans will be accompanied by a complaint to police if violent behaviour is suspected," said the club.

Meanwhile, two groups of Angers 'ultras' claimed they had been the victims when fighting broke out with visiting Marseille fans at a Ligue 1 game on Wednesday. They also denied throwing an explosive device at the away supporters.

One group, the Kop de la Butte, said in a statement that they had defended themselves and "we admit it without shame".

They promised to find a way to allow their members to attend after the French league ordered the closure of one of the stands at the Stade Raymond Kopa for the home game with Metz on Octber 3.

The violent incidents are among a series at Ligue 1 games as fans have returned to stadiums this season.

Also on Wednesday, stones were thrown at a bus taking Bordeaux fans to their match in Montpellier, with 16 suffering minor injuries.

Earlier in the season, Nice were docked one point after the abandonment of their game against Mediterranean rivals Marseille on August 22.

At Stade Bollaert-Delelis on Saturday, riot police intervened when Lens supporters stormed the pitch at half-time to confront Lille fans, while both sets of fans hurled seats at each other over a partition wall.

Pouille said the sanctions apply to "all the identified individuals who went on the pitch".

So far, 17 supporters have been identified, out of more than a hundred who swarmed out of the Marek stand along the north touchline.

Lens, who went on to beat the defending Ligue 1 champions 1-0, were ordered to play two home matches pending a disciplinary hearing.

French Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu welcomed "the decision of the president of Lens".

"If we need to tighten the administrative or judicial procedures, we will do it", she told AFP.

Pouille also condemned the behaviour of Lille fans in the area for visiting fans where "80 seats were torn out, broken" and the "toilets devastated".

He deplored "images that we had rarely seen", believing that "these facts are more about hooliganism than fanism."

"The fans will accept the condemnation of violence," Pouille said. "The hardest thing is to make them understand that they cannot invade the pitch in reaction to what they see. The pitch is sacred."

The scuffles against Lille resulted in six minor injuries and two arrests.

One of them, a 26-year-old Lille supporter, appeared in court on Monday for "violence against a person holding public authority" with a "weapon of choice", namely "a seat that was torn off".

At the same time, "several investigations have been initiated following the events", including one "for provocation to hatred and display of racist or xenophobic signs", the public prosecutor's office in nearby Bethune indicated on Wednesday in a message to AFP.