The cross : How deeply rooted does the culture of hooliganism seem to you in France?
The culture of hooliganism has been active in France for four decades. However, a distinction must be made between hooligans (radical supporters who seek confrontation with their counterparts) and deviant acts of various kinds (smoke bombs, intrusion on the playing area, even brawls) which are not the act of strictly speaking hooligans but rather ultras. The latter are distinguished from hooligans, because violence is not at the center of their practices, they are there to support and actively defend their club but are sometimes involved in unrest.
Finally, compared to Germany, the Netherlands, even England, France has fewer hooligans. Nevertheless, despite a fairly low number, a new generation of hooligans is active and has adopted new methods. They now draw inspiration from their Eastern European counterparts, who transformed hooliganism from the start of the 21st century. To avoid the police, they most often confront each other far from the stadiums, during meetings where the number of fighters is determined. They are combat sports enthusiasts who train and then measure themselves during these confrontations. The incidents caused by Russian hooligans during Euro 2016 gave new impetus to these methods.
With Alain Bauer’s report on confrontations between supporters, do you think the Professional Football League (LFP) has finally tackled the issue of violence head-on?
It is a facade solution. This gentleman has no knowledge in the matter while there are experts and structures such as the National Supporterism Authority, as well as the parliamentary report of the joint fact-finding mission on the regime of stadium bans and supporterism of May 2020, coordinated by MPs Marie-George Buffet and Sacha Houlié. This quality work analyzes the failures of the all-repressive policy and suggests relevant recommendations.
In Alain Bauer’s report, the ideas of introducing a supporter’s card or a nominative ticket office are aberrations which do not work in the fight against violence, as shown by the Italian example, where there have been for more than ten years such practices. Because the problem is not to identify each spectator of a stadium, a waste of time, but the troublemakers and the hooligans. The difficulty is that these individuals are not always present in the stadiums and carry out most of their violent actions outside the enclosures.
Finally, it is necessary to underline the bad management of the sports crowds and the errors made by the public authorities and the sports clubs during the numerous incidents last season.
The dramatic event that took place in Indonesia on 1er last October, resulting in the death of 131 people, could it arrive in France?
It would be absurd to compare stadiums in Indonesia and France. The Indonesian police do not have real training to supervise sports crowds and restore calm. We saw it in footage of Kanjuruhan Stadium, where the north and south corners are overwhelmed by tear gas fired by security services. In addition, crowd evacuation conditions are not planned, with narrow stairs and far too small doors. Finally, the Indonesian enclosure was overcapacity, with at least 5,000 spectators too many in the stands.
However, the catastrophic organization of the Champions League final in Paris on May 28, 2022 should make us think. That day, Liverpool supporters could have died in the bottleneck put in place at the level of ticket verification. Luckily, their calm in a chaotic situation averted the worst.