Lyon v Marseille abandoned after Payet hit by bottle, arrest revealed as LFP condemns more French violence

By Sports Desk November 21, 2021

Lyon's Ligue 1 home match against Marseille was abandoned after Dimitri Payet was hit by a bottle hurled by a spectator, heaping fresh embarrassment on the French game.

Former West Ham playmaker Payet was preparing to take a corner amid a hostile atmosphere when he was struck on the side of the head by a plastic bottle full of liquid.

He immediately went to ground and needed treatment, prompting referee Ruddy Buquet to take the players off the pitch. Payet left the field with an ice pack pressed to the side of his head.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas later said a spectator had been arrested in connection with the bottle throwing, and offered an apology to Payet.

The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) said its disciplinary chiefs would meet on Monday, describing the rash of violent incidents in Ligue 1 as acts that are "destroying the image of the championship in France and internationally".

Lyon could face a points deduction over the incident, with Nice having been docked two points, one of which was suspended, after crowd trouble at their game against Marseille earlier this season.

The LFP said it "strongly condemns the violent aggression" that Payet suffered. "Dimitri Payet was also the target of discriminatory insults," the LFP said.

It added a firm warning that fan misconduct will lead to sanctions, stating: "Despite the firmness of the decisions of the disciplinary commission of the LFP since the start of the season [withdrawal of points, closed-door match, closure of the stand] and the work carried out with the government authorities to more effectively punish violent individuals in the stadiums, these new serious incidents are a reminder that the safety of the matches is the responsibility of the home club and the local authorities, who are ultimately responsible for resuming or definitively stopping the match."

There was a bizarre sideshow to the serious business of the assault on Payet, as the LFP and local authorities took contrasting views on what happened after the players were hauled off the pitch.

The LFP claimed a decision had been taken by the local Rhone prefecture to resume the game, but those officials hit out at the league authorities and said they had made no such declaration, stressing that Buquet decided it should start again before changing his mind.

Fans stayed inside the Groupama Stadium long after the incident occurred, in the hope of a resumption that never came, even though at one point it looked like doing so when the players returned to the pitch to warm up. 

The Rhone local government officials said in a statement on Twitter that a "crisis meeting" had taken place, attended by their representatives and others, including match officials and presidents of both clubs, at which referee Buquet decided the match should resume.

The Rhone officials issued a subsequent statement taking issue with the LFP take, describing it as "FALSE", adding: "The referee then invites the authorities and club presidents to his dressing room to say that he has changed his mind and that he is stopping the match."

There have been a number of major crowd trouble incidents in French football this season, starting from the opening weekend when Marseille midfielder Valentin Rongier was hit by a bottle while celebrating a goal that Payet scored against Montpellier.

Marseille and Payet were on the receiving end later in August after Nice fans hurled bottles onto the pitch. Payet was struck and hurled the bottle back into the stand, sparking a pitch invasion by Nice ultras. That match was abandoned and replayed behind closed doors at Troyes' neutral ground in October, with Nice served with their points penalty.

Saint-Etienne and Angers were delayed by an hour in starting their October 22 game after angry fans hurled flares onto the pitch and demanded Claude Puel quit as Saint-Etienne boss. There was also trouble at Saint-Etienne's game against Lyon, while the clash between Lens and Lille in September was held up after rival fans clashed at half-time.

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