“We are in a society where violence has regained its rights”, analyzes a sociologist specializing in hooliganism

The incidents of October 29, in which Lyon coach Fabio Grosso was injured in the face, are part of the continuity of a climate of violence inside, but also outside, sports venues.

Almost a week after the incidents which led to the postponement of the Marseille-Lyon match, OM welcomes Lille on Saturday November 4, in a still tense context. Whether the Olympico will be replayed on December 6 in an as yet undetermined location, many questions remain unanswered. Maître Arnaud Ibanez, lawyer at the Marseille bar in criminal law and sports lawand Dominique Bodin, professor of sociology at the Fontainebleau Institute of Political Studies and specialist in hooliganism, analyze for franceinfo: sport the impact of these incidents on the future.

Franceinfo: sport: Are these incidents a sign of an increase in fan violence?

Dominique Bodin: The violence of fanism in France has been the same for forty years, it has neither improved nor deteriorated. In reality, we did not solve the problems, we moved them spatially outside the stadiums. We are in a society where violence has regained its rights. We can clearly see that the violence in the stadium resembles the violence in the neighborhoods, in the city, on the sidelines of the demonstrations. Human relations have become excessively violent in recent years and the violence of fanism is just one mirror among others.

We must pay attention to the nature of the violence: what happened is unacceptable and measures, including coercive measures, must be taken. We are experiencing slippages, it is serious, we must prevent them, but above all we must prevent them from becoming something else. We must never lose sight of the fact that being violent and disruptive is a way when you are young to build an individual identity within a collective, which is the group of supporters to which you belong.

Should we deconstruct supporters’ quest for identity in order to reduce incidents?

Dominique Bodin: When you are in a group of supporters, you are not with your parents, so you want to become someone in the eyes of the older ones. We have this deep attachment which raises the question of the lack of future prospects among young people. You are all the more inclined to identify with the football club as this identity is difficult to find in society.

Let’s not kid ourselves, football created supporters. He denies it, but it is he who opened the logic of the 12th man. But at the same time, football also supports the faults of society. If we want to make young people dream, we must bring them back to prospects for the future, work, education, but we must also bring them back to what life is. And life is not about fighting with others and having ideas about everything and especially against others.

How to distinguish the culprits in this type of incident?

Arnaud Ibanez: Identifying the perpetrators with cameras from the urban surveillance center or testimonies from traders or bar managers around the location of the commission of the facts is possible. Afterwards, determining the role of each person is something else. If there is no arrest in flagrante delicto, it is very complicated for investigators to find the perpetrators. On the day of the incident, we were 250 meters from the Vélodrome stadium, on an artery under construction for the construction of the tramway. There are paving stones on the road, there are gestures of opportunity: someone who takes a paving stone, who throws it towards the bus as it passes, with a spontaneous crowd movement… Determine responsibility is very complicated in this context, especially since it was at a fairly late hour, it was already dark and the roads were poorly lit.

What penalties do they incur?

Arnaud Ibanez: There are two criteria to take into consideration. The seriousness of the offense: it involves willful violence, perhaps in a meeting, and possibly with premeditation. It all depends on the qualification retained by the prosecution. There is also the personality of the perpetrators: if they are individuals who are integrated into society, unknown to the police, first-time offenders (no criminal record), they will be eligible for a simple suspended sentence and a probationary suspended sentence, with for example obligations to compensate the victim (Fabio Grosso), and/or to repair material damage. This material damage must be quantified by the plaintiffs and with regard to the bodily injury of the coach (30 days of ITT), it will be determined and quantified by expert opinion.

If it is an act prepared by a group made up of individuals hiding their faces in order not to be identified (ambush), and the individual(s) have a background, criminal records including convictions relating to acts of violence, they may be awarded either a fixed prison sentence with a committal warrant, or an ab-initio sentence modification which generally takes the form of Home Detention under Electronic Surveillance (DDSE), or a sentence mixed (a period accompanied by a probationary suspension with the obligation to compensate the victim, and a firm portion whose quantum can be adjusted in the form of a DDSE).

The Olympique Lyonnais bus damaged by projectile jets upon its arrival at the Vélodrome, October 29, 2023. (CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP)

Regarding the penalties, we could be dealing with willful violence in a meeting with premeditation near a sports venue which resulted in total incapacity for work (ITT) of more than 8 days. In theory, these facts are punishable by a sentence of 10 years of imprisonment if we take into account the aforementioned aggravating circumstances.

Is the arsenal of sanctions sufficient?

Arnaud Ibanez: We have a main penalty which is the criminal sanction. Then, the perpetrators could have an additional penalty of judicial ban from the stadium, which can be for a maximum period of five years, with an obligation to “score” on match days (generally at half-time) at the police station. The author of the offense may also be sentenced to a financial sanction (fines) in order to repair the damage caused. The penalties are still quite heavy, but in practice it depends on the personality of the accused and the consequences of his actions. The sentence must be proportionate to the personality of the perpetrator. I think that the legal arsenal is more than sufficient.

What additional measures could we consider?

Dominique Bodin: Better protection for buses, that’s obvious. We must multiply the paths, vary the routes and arrivals, so as not to be caught out by people who are looking for what is feasible. Then there is coercion. There are laws, that of 1993 or that of 2006, on the dissolution of supporter groups. There are clubs which have taken matters into their own hands, like with the Leproux plan at PSG. So, let’s apply the law with the maximum penalties that are incurred, we must stop being tolerant with this type of thing.

We also need to improve communication with supporter groups, where the vast majority of members are against this type of behavior. By improving communication with those who are not a problem, you gather information about those who are. This communication is fundamental for good decision-making and good anticipation. Finally, we should improve the reception of supporters and opposing players, therefore increasing the security of the surrounding areas as well as the interior of the enclosure.

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