French league targets Saint-Etienne after pitch invasion
PARIS (AP) — The French league will investigate the incidents that marred a soccer match between Saint-Etienne and Lyon after home fans invaded the pitch and unfurled an aggressive banner calling for “hatred” during a 5-0 loss.
The derby between the two neighbors at Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium was halted twice on Sunday. Referee Clement Turpin stopped the game for a second time in the 84th minute when fans descended from the stands.
Lyon forward Nabil Fekir appeared to spark the invasion by taking off his shirt and raising it in front of angry home fans after his second goal of the night. Turpin led the players away and riot police sprinted onto the field to restore order.
The game resumed after more than 30 minutes.
The French soccer federation’s ethics committee said in a statement Monday it has asked the league’s disciplinary commission to open a disciplinary case. The league said it will start looking into the incidents, which also included flares being set off, on Thursday.
“These events have tarnished the derby’s image and are putting in jeopardy the possibility for away fans to travel to matches pitting the two clubs against each other in the future,” the league said.
Among the most popular clubs in France, Saint-Etienne and Lyon are separated by only 60 kilometers (37 miles) and their rivalry is one of the fiercest in French soccer.
Saint-Etienne won a record 10 league titles before falling into mediocrity in the 1980s in the aftermath of a financial scandal, while Lyon gradually climbed to the top in the late 1990s and won seven straight titles from 2002-08.