Travel prohibited and stands closed… Does France (again) have a problem with its supporters?

RIP small support management policy gone too quickly. Long known for leaving little room for dialogue and far too much collective repression, France seemed to have begun in recent years a more flexible shift in its way of conceiving the management of supporters.

Before the Covid, confinement and two years behind closed doors reduced everything to nothing. Indeed, since the return of the public to the stadiums last summer, the public authorities and the football authorities have gone back to their old ways, multiplying the closures of stands and travel bans. To the point of pushing groups of supporters to carry out joint actions in the stands last weekend to denounce this new state of affairs, with supporting figures:

This 2021-2022 season is:

  • 11 behind closed doors
  • 35 grandstand closures (including 21 suspended)
  • 24 car park closures (including 5 suspended)
  • 129 prefectural orders limiting or prohibiting travel

Sociologist at the Ecole Centrale de Lyon and member of the National Support Authority, Nicolas Hourcade does not hide his concern: “Before confinement, France was engaged in a transformation of its management of supporters by trying to better articulate the aspect repression and the prevention component, by trying to better prepare matches upstream to limit travel bans. Since the Covid, certain habits have been lost and today we have the feeling of a real step back. »

An eventful start to the season in the stands

It must also be said that the violent events at the start of the season, during Nice-OM, Lens-Lille, OL-OM and Angers-OM did not help to start off on a sound basis. And although things have since calmed down, the damage was done. For the spokesperson for the National Association of Supporters, “these cases have given food for thought to the prefects to be able to relaunch the prefectural decrees wrongly and through. Involved in the political shift initiated before the pandemic, the Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu had nevertheless repeated that these events should not be used as a pretext to return to the bad methods of the past.

“The instructions were again repeated to the prefects by the Minister of the Interior, at the end of 2021, via a new circular: take proportionate measures so as not to systematize the travel bans, slips us a source at the Ministry of Sports. Unfortunately, we only have momentum, we are not the ones who make the final decisions…”

In view of the figures quoted above, it is clear that the minister was not heard. To the chagrin of Nicolas Hourcade. “Apart from a few rare individuals whose cases have been highly publicized and who have been prosecuted and judged, most violent supporters go under the radar, he regrets. And, next to it, we see the number of travel bans and closings of stands explode. No country has effectively tackled hooliganism by closing stands or stadiums and banning people from moving around. They did this by targeting troublemakers and banning them individually from the stadium. Here we are on an attitude that looks very much like a kind of headlong rush…”

Forward flight which did not fall from the sky and which is explained in particular by the notable absence of the DNLH, attached to the Ministry of the Interior, and which no longer gives many signs of life since the appointment of Commissioner Thibault Delaunay in September 2020.

“With Delaunay’s predecessor, we had security meetings with the prefectures which made it possible to work calmly before the meetings and to organize more travel for supporters, explains Kilian Valentin. Today we no longer have any contact with them. »

“I cannot tell you what the DNLH is doing today, engages MP Sacha Houlié, author of a report on supporters with Marie-George Buffet. Not to mention that there is also no longer any coordination between the Ministry of the Interior and that of Sports, and that is what had enabled us to obtain progress through the work of the INS”.

When the kite festival prevents Nantes residents from going to Lens

Therefore, according to the parliamentarian, the regional prefects are “unleashed in the wild and they do what they know how to do best: risk prevention, so belt and suspenders. « They are responsible in the sense that they are the ones who take these orders, but we shouldn’t put everything on their backs either, » he nuances all the same. Deprived of information from the DNLH and that of referent-supporters, who are no longer systematically invited to preparatory meetings, the prefects sometimes base themselves on old antagonisms from Methuselah to justify this or that travel ban.

This was the case recently during PSG-Lens, where the Lensois were asked to stay at home because of the tensions which would oppose them to the Parisians since the famous banner « Pedophiles, unemployed, consanguineous: welcome to the Ch’tis » deployed at the Stade de France in… 2008. As a result, to show the futility of such an explanation, the Collectif Ultras Paris invited its Lensois counterparts to follow the match with them in the Virage Auteuil. And we pass over the reasons for sleeping in disused sheds, such as the Berck kite festival or the Noyelles-Godault manga fair to justify the ban on movement of Nantes residents to Lens.

« We’re walking on our heads! » exclaims Nicolas Hourcade. On high-risk matches, on a big, very hot derby where there were serious incidents in the previous match, we can understand the travel ban. But when it becomes so frequent and for such absurd reasons, somewhere it makes the measures completely illegitimate. “And this one to ask the question (and to answer it): “Does the State want to bother to secure the travel of supporters? Clearly the French answer is no”.

Committed to defending the rights of supporters, lawyer Pierre Barthélemy points out “a text is too vague, too permissive and lacks safeguards. «  » It can therefore be used in a clearly abusive way by the prefects, he continues. In my opinion, it is above all an easy solution for the prefectural services, a means which, in their minds, allows them to have less work. This is also what our doctor from the stands Nicolas Hourcade thinks: “It is much simpler and less costly in time and money to prohibit the movement of supporters or to close a stand. The individualization of sanctions requires real police and justice work, and therefore human and financial resources. »

The light at the end of the tunnel?

To end on a note of hope, it should be noted that the Ministry of Sports has added to the Sports Law, voted at the end of February after the incidents at the start of the season, the creation of an individual lump sum fine, which will make it possible to verbalize immediately someone who enters with a dangerous object and/or who uses it on the premises of a stadium. « The goal is to target troublemakers and individualize sanctions, » we are told on the side of the ministry. And to put an end to the collective sanctions which distort French football and create a feeling of injustice among the many supporters who have nothing to reproach themselves for.

We can also welcome the experimentation with supervised pyrotechnics in certain stadiums this season, which may eventually make it possible to put an end to the closing of stands, as was still the case after the Nantes-Monaco semi-final, where no incident had however been to be deplored. And Nicolas Hourcade concludes: “You have to believe in a better tomorrow. The INS is emerging from the torpor into which the Ministry of Sports has plunged it, work is slowly resuming. If we ask ourselves and decide to relaunch the dialogue, there is a possibility of better reconciling security and freedom. So all is not lost.

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